From the airport I was driven into town on a shuttle service that prides itself on being eco-friendly whatever that means, and the driver’s name was Khan, as in Kubla, and he was a Pakinstani man who smiled a lot, who was raised in Malaysia and so who identifies more with Malaysia, though he did tell me how he would like to one day find the time to visit Pakistan.
He spoke very low and his accent was very thick but he never stopped smiling and I knew that he must be a very kind man as he continued to talk now of Portland, and of the good weather they’d been having lately. He tells me that I am very gracious for waiting in the van while he waited at the airport for more customers to come in. Those customers never did show up so it was only the two of us going into town. I sat beside him in the passenger seat. More comfortable anyway.
” Well it was no problem at all,” I say, “I’m in no real rush.” It’s the truth and I’m embarrassed at how humble and kind the man is to me. Everyone in town would prove very humble before common human decency, like a puppy who’s been betrayed very often. Yea Portland is cold but it’s people are very kind when you come to know them, when you talk to them long enough.
It all reminds me of Roswell, of those people who are much too pure to ever deserve any rudeness. That feeling goes with Khan, especially. This honorable man in the world who was taking me across the river, who slowed down slightly as the skyline appeared to us on our right so that I could take a picture of it with all its subdued menace and unmistakable charm. This was now Khan’s city after all. He was really driving slow the whole way.
This morning its freezing outside and people keep opening the goddamn door! The wind rushes in fierce and it smacks me in the face and blows at my insides, and then the closing door shuts it out and my insides warm up once more, as I recuperate joyously and ease back into corner of the booth. It hasn’t stopped raining and so foot travel is difficult. No doubt ol’ Angel Bambino will guffaw at me for my walking, that ol’ bearded rascal back in LA.
At the Flying Elephant on Park Ave the people are laughing and thankful and they keep to themselves. The food is plenty and the coffee is very good and very cheap and very warm.
That pirate who I met ealier this morning told me about how he came here from San Fernando to live near his boy in Newport. He thanked me for letting him use my phone charger and said ‘Can I get you a coffee or a Danish or somethin?’
‘No it’s cool man don’t even worry about it.’
‘Well thanks a lot. It’s just that most people would find me very strange and you know how people can be.’
Ah well we’re not in LA anymore my friend.’
‘No,’ he laughed, ‘no I guess not.’
He says that Portland is nice and very compact but that maybe it’s the compactness which explains everyone’s unquenchable need to be in eachothers business. At this moment I start asking him a bunch of questions though I don’t think he catches on. Like I say, he was very gracious for my own kindness.
At night I roamed the streets of downtown and went into one of those sleek and echoing ritz hotels that are so wonderful to walk into all nice and warm after being outside in the cold rain in the night. The hotel patron told me that ‘Yes, this town is very much a community, or it is a very community-type, kind of city…know what I mean?’, and with that California valley inflection he emphasizes ‘community’.
My first night here, which was last night, I found people to be standoffish and initially not trusting of strangers like me. But I think that it was only their immediate appearance for they quickly take you in. Either way, I wrote this note over a half-eaten doughnut in the sprinkling rain.
Oregon in Portland welcomes few travelers.
I feel it’s a city where you earn your stripes.
Future friend of mine.
Sidewalks are old and stained with beer
rain-soaked and stone-cold
but the bartender is nicccce
and she brings me my sandwich
And a crate of mustard