That was the response from family, coworkers, and friends when I told them Sue and I were going to Oregon for vacation. I told them all the state had to offer and mentioned a few must dos, which we did.
Now that I’ve been back for a week, I asked myself the question again. Here’s a few of the moments that made my vacation such a fun, amazing, and unique experience.
Portland’s downtown library is a historic landmark. It was buzzing with activity the day I went. I happened upon a skateboarding exhibit on the third floor by Cal Skate, a local skateboarding shop that’s been in business since the early 1970s.
After going through the history of skateboards and checking out the old decks, trucks, and wheels, I wandered into the Literature and History Room and walked up to the information desk. I complimented the two library guys on the library and the exhibit, and followed up with a question.
“How did Portland get the nickname Stumptown?”
“I don’t know,” was the reply by the man my age. It didn’t seem to me like a difficult question. However, this is often a reactionary response. I say it too sometimes because, even though people come to the reference desk for information, no one likes a know-it-all. Perhaps we were just annoying out of towners, but providing answers or at least attempting to find answers to questions is what makes librarians librarians. I waited for the librarian to say more, like, “let me research that for you.” He didn’t. It was the first time since starting my blog that a librarian didn’t know, and was satisfied with not finding out.
I Stumped the Librarian!
Still burning for an answer, I joined a walking tour, Secrets of Portlandia, a free tour not including tip, led by a guy named Travis. He was a wealth of information on the culture and history of Portland, even though he told some really corny jokes along the way.
The city got its infamous nickname during the mid 19th century. Portland was built for it’s timber and proximity to the river. However, when they took these massive trees down, they left the stumps in the ground. And there they stayed, for decades, rotting away, slowly. Leaders in other frontier cities lured settlers away by giving the city the derogatory moniker Stumptown.
During that time, one Portlandian said, “Portland has more stumps than people.”
“We embrace the nickname now,” Travis told his group of ten tourists.
One company has cashed in on it.
Aside from my own, I didn’t see any stumps in Stumptown. I even checked the Japanese Tea Gardens, International Rose Garden, and Forest Park. I took a day trip and a hike to Mirror Lake, which offers a reflected view of Mt. Hood on its surface. According to a Timberline Lodge volunteer I chatted with on the hike, the older trees were “notched” along the base of the trunk so platforms or scaffolding could be built around the tree. This created a level surface for two loggers to stand on while they cut down the tree using a two man handsaw. The stumps with notches are over 100 years old, according to our volunteer.
Just like Lincoln City’s motto, I did “try something new.” I made a glass starfish at Jennifer Sears Glass Art. This hands on experience is a must do for any artist or tourist. (Also don’t miss a whale watch on a Zodiac boat)
Each step is hands on, from heating, shaping, cupping, pulling, and cutting.
After I finished my starfish, a flat-topped man in the audience (I didn’t know I had one while I was making my starfish) stopped me and said, “I like how you customized your starfish. Is that carbon fiber?” He was pointing to my prosthesis.
“Thanks, and yes it is,” I said.
“A friend of mine back home has a carbon fiber prosthesis too. His AR 15 has a carbon fiber barrel.”
“That must make for a cool Facebook photo,” I told him and he waxed on about guns.
“He’s modified it so there is no recoil when you fire it.” He spoke with the experience still fresh in mind, his hands cradling the make believe rifle.
“Sounds like you’ve got rifle envy,” I said.
“Yeah, I do, but hey, I’m gonna tell my friend about your starfish. That’s an original there.”
I have friends who tell me Oregon is just beautiful. Your starfish is awesome as is the photo of you in the cafe.
Thank You, and Oregon is majestic. When I looked at your blog it reminded of a girl we saw along the Columbia River Gorge. She had brought along some Dr. Who props and figures and was putting them in all her pictures, like people do with Flat Stanley only with a phone booth and other characters.
I spent a couple of days in Portland at a writer’s conference. Never got a chance to leave the hotel, so I didn’t see all the cool stuff you saw. I need to go back.
Cool starfish and an even better story.
I was thinking about you the other day. I was finishing John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River and realized that he uses limb loss as a theme in his book quite often. It’s present in Twisted River, A Prayer for Owen Meany (a finger rather than a limb, but it’s done intentionally), and, of course, in The Fourth Hand. Have you ever noticed that?
Thanks Grace, I’ve not read much Irving, but it’s interesting that you noted his theme across multiple works. I’ve seen limb loss used thematically from Melville to Galbraith/Rowling. Irving’s now on my reading and amputee list.
It sounds like your Oregon trip was like going to Louisville for residency.
I like visiting un-touristy (or would that be, non-touristy) types of places. Oregon would be a beautiful contrast to South Alabama. Love the photo at the cafe’.
I do too, and so glad we found a few places, and enjoyed the experience.
We like discovering those places too. I’m thinking about using that photo as a banner.
We’ve toyed with going to Portland for vacation too. We’ve got friends up there and really like the whole idea of the artsy scene about the place too. It sounds like a Northern Fairhope to me. I think we’ll probably make it up there one day eventually. Based on your trip, it sounds like a fun place!
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