Sharing some love with the Portland Timbers (MLS champs!)

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Here’s the thing…

I’m not really a soccer fan. I’ve never been to a Timbers game. I’ve never watched an entire Timbers game all the way through. (I’m not even sure if I should call it a “game” or a “match.” I’m not sure how much of English football terminology is used over here.)

I am, however, a rabid Portland Trail Blazers fan. I love my team; I can name all the guys and identify them by sight. (Okay… maybe not Luis Montero. I need to get on that.) I understand basketball, love the nuances of the game, listen to sports radio in my car to hear people talk about the team. I get mad when my husband wants to fast-forward through timeouts and halftime reports.

I can only imagine how I would feel if the Blazers won the NBA title. I’d be going INSANE. I might meet them at the airport. I would definitely be attending the parade. The Timbers Army are at least as fanatical as Rip City; it was madness at PDX today, and I imagine it will be crazy downtown tomorrow.

So to all of you out there, a million congratulations on your record-breaking win. (A goal in the first 27 seconds? Fair play!) See that photo up there? It’s the tag from the scarf I bought at the Blazer game the other night. It is green on one side and red on the other, but both sides sport an axe and a pinwheel. I’m not jumping on your bandwagon, but I sure can appreciate your achievement.

Way to represent Portland, Timbers! I can’t wait until the Blazers get another chance to do so!

Plan #20 – Contemplate where I’m from

I consider myself a Portlander. I moved here 32 years ago and I’ve lived here for all but three of those years. I’ve had an affinity for this city since my dad moved here when I was 12 and we began to spend summers here. See, that’s how Portland sucks you in: you come during the wonderful, beautiful, warm summer months and decide to live here… but then you get to live here through the grey months, too. Luckily for me, I don’t mind the rain. I’ve seen what it’s like to live somewhere that does not have consistent moisture, and it’s not pretty.

My “hometown” is Huntington Beach, California. I was not technically born there, but I was brought from the hospital to a home in HB, so I think that counts. I lived there for twelve of my first 17 years:

  • HB from birth through preschool (at 4 different addresses);
  • moved away for kindergarten through 2nd grade (2 different addresses);
  • HB for 3rd grade (1 different address),
  • moved away for 4th and 5th (2 different addresses),
  • back to HB for 6th through high school graduation (2 different addresses).

Yeah, I’ve been around the block (and I’ve lived on most blocks, too). I also abbreviate Huntington Beach fairly often, a habit I picked up from years of frustration over scantron forms that never have enough boxes or bubbles to fill in a long city name or forms that say “City: _____________” where the lines are far too short to fit anything beyond eight letters. (Hmm… and what other city is eight letters long?! Coincidence?)

It’s blasphemous in many circles to say so, but I don ‘t find much of Huntington Beach very attractive. Yes, the old downtown area is surfer-cool and has tons of charm, but North Huntington Beach, where I lived, was largely a land of housing tracts enclosed by concrete-block walls with a school and park in the center of each one, the houses themselves a series of  cookie-cutter ranch models with a tree planted in the parking strip out front. At every other major intersection or so was a shopping center and/or gas station; the differences were fairly few. Was the market a Vons, Alpha Beta, or Lucky? Was the drugstore Sav-on’s, Thrifty, or an independent? Was the gas station Shell or Texaco or 76?

Believe me, it was not a bad place to grow up. It was flat, so we could ride bikes everywhere; there were plenty of amenities;  the schools were good; and our parish, St. Bonaventure, had an amazing carnival. What more could a kid want? It was just bland, or worse. There was a “moat” (a flood control channel) around my high school, a Naval Weapons Station at the end of my street, a large industrial park just around the corner. But I had good friends and good times and it was all I knew.

Of course, the proximity to the beach elevated its cachet immensely. I mean, this is Surf City we are talking about. Miles of gorgeous shoreline (only some of which is across from extensive oil fields); great surfing; warm, sunny days. I absolutely love the beach and I am sure I always will. It gets into your blood, and a windy stroll on a cold Oregon coast just doesn’t cut it, beautiful as it may be.

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I spent hours and hours on the beach, rotating my towel to get a better tan, listening to the radio with friends, body surfing (I was not a surfer, though a few girls surfed), taking romantic walks on the sand with boys or hauling kids we babysat in and out of the water. It was a short bus ride to Bolsa Chica, or a transfer and a longer ride down to the pier. (Either way, you’d get off the bus at a Jack in the Box, strangely.) It was fantastic.

But still.  Still, this town that I spent the first third of my life in never got the grip on my heart that Portland did. I came up here and I knew. This was my city. That other place, the place I grew up, is an interesting place to visit, to drive around and see what’s changed. But I don’t love it. I don’t miss it. I don’t wish I were there.

(Okay, okay. Sometimes I wish I were just a short drive from the beach. That will probably never change.)

Hanging out downtown with Vera

Last weekend, I escorted three lovely young women into downtown Portland for the afternoon. Quinland and her friends Molly and Emma were on a mission: to take pictures of Portland for their middle school yearbook.

We parked at my work and strolled down the waterfront, across the Hawthorne Bridge, to the Eastbank Esplanade. The esplanade is named for Vera Katz, who was mayor of Portland for most of the 1990s, when it was developed, and her statue sits – literally – right off the path.

While the girls shot skyline photos – and candids of each other – Vera and I hung out together.

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Have I ever mentioned how much I love my city? From the time I first visited as a preteen when my dad and stepmom moved here for her work, I knew that I wanted to live in Portland forever. When I walk downtown, drive across the Marquam Bridge, or fly in over Mt. Hood, it makes me happy. I belong here.

It always makes me think about the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song, “Under the Bridge.” In his autobiography, Scar Tissue, lead singer Anthony Kiedis talked about writing the song and described his feelings about Los Angeles:

“I felt an unspoken bond between me and my city. I’d spent so much time wandering through the streets of L.A. and hiking through the Hollywood Hills that I sensed there was a nonhuman entity, maybe the spirit of the hills and the city, who had me in her sights and was looking after me.”

I picked up a book a year or so ago called Walk There! 50 Treks in and around Portland and Vancouver. This year, I’d like to do at least one of those walks each month. It would be healthy exercise, of course, but I’d also like the chance to see and appreciate even more of this awesome city.

Tell me about your native or adopted hometown! Do you walk the streets? Hike through the parks and greenspaces?  Get that thrill of being home when you arrive back from a trip? (I may be more sentimental than most, I’ll admit; you may only get a flutter.)