It was 29 years ago today that I arrived in Portland in my yellow VW bug, with all my earthly belongings stuffed into it somehow. I had set foot in this town only once before, for a couple of days. It was all new.
It was to be a one-year stint, and then off to Los Angeles I would go. But I found some things here that I wanted to hold onto. And here I still am.
My first Portland abode was house-sitting a new-ish ranch house along the Rock Creek Country Club out near 185th and West Union Road. In those days, if you walked out from the golf course to West Union, there was nothing but agricultural land to the north of you and the west of you. Just wide-open Oregon, all the way to the sunset coast.
The people who owned the house were holding it until it became worth more than $100,000, at which point they were going to sell it. It did, and they did, the following spring.
Many memories were made that year. It snowed just before Thanksgiving; later that winter, we skated through a patented Portland "silver thaw." There were fistfights two nights a week at the Rock Creek Tavern; I saw most of them, stayed out of all of them. I played jazz records on KBOO in the middle of the night. Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, and Ron Carter performed together one night at Portland State. I interviewed Monte Ballou, who used to live just off Belmont, for a KBOO special.
Every day a guy named Ron Roman stood on the corner where Pioneer Courthouse Square is today, preaching away; back then it was a Meier & Frank parking garage. Where Pioneer Place is now, there was an ancient building with a Fred Meyer store, Dave's Deli, and the Harvester Bar, where mushrooms grew in the carpet. There was a daily farmer's market of sorts where Saks is now. The Greek Cusina guys had their first hole in the wall, on Yamhill just east of Fourth. The place to go at night downtown was the Last Hurrah, a nightclub in the basement of a building on Alder; or maybe Sachs Front Avenue, down at Yamhill and what is now Naito. A band called Slowtrain was among the top dogs. Native son Jim Pepper would come through once in a while. One time he played at Artquake, the arts festival that used to take over downtown streets on Labor Day weekend; I remember him playing "Polar Bear" on a riser right there in the intersection of Alder and Broadway.
I heard "The Oogum Boogum Song" for the first time. I celebrated passing the California Bar. There was a total solar eclipse one morning. I blew the engine on the Volks and it took me a couple of months to come up with the dough to have Kurt at Esquire Motors rebuild it. The Oregon State men's basketball team was a national force. The Blazers, just recently world champs, were suddenly over the hill. Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve beer was on something like bottling no. 5. I learned how to cross-country ski and backpack.
There was way more ahead of me than there was behind me. Here in Portland, the whole world seemed to be opening up in a way that it never had before.