Springtime in Portland, dragon boats and farmers markets, the joys of wandering

Yesterday was a good day for the 9-mile version of the waterfront loop. I set out at 7, a bit later than usual for the Saturday run but that was okay, on a cool morning, temperature 54, sky a bit overcast. It's a scenic route that takes me from my neighborhood two blocks south of Laurelhurst Park southwest to the Hawthorne Bridge. Among the landmarks along the way are Commonwealth Skateboarding with a sign by the door that reads "Trump family use sewer entrance," Hawthorne Asylum Food Carts, and Hot Bikini Brew, a drive-through coffee hut featuring scantily clad baristas. Perhaps I offend the commissars of political correctness by noticing and remarking upon those baristas. Tant mieux! as the French say.


When I reached the bridge I headed south past OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) to Tilikum Crossing, which took me over the river to the South Waterfront/SW Moody MAX station, OHSU School of Dentistry, and the Knight Cancer Research Building and on to Waterfront Park.

With the Rose Festival in full swing,

spectators were already gathering for the day's dragon boat races. On past Salmon Street Springs came the Rose Festival City Fair, Saturday Market, and Navy vessels in town for Fleet Week up by the Steel Bridge. I thought of Rob Turner, my brother's old high school pal from Chapin, South Carolina, who had a distinguished career as a Navy officer and now teaches NJROTC at a high school in Charleston, and wondered if he ever made it to Portland for Fleet Week.


As I made my way down to the Eastbank Esplanade after crossing the upper deck of the bridge, I glimpsed crowds in the distance establishing their positions for the Grand Floral Parade later that morning. It was quite the festive atmosphere all around.


I returned in the afternoon to do some people watching...










...and catch some dragon boat action.









To my delight I happened on a former office colleague, Missy, a member of the Kaiser Permente NW dragon boat team. Missy was my boss's boss's boss, a good person who always treated me with respect and friendliness, maybe better than I sometimes deserved. I was not always my best self at the office. We chatted a bit until she had to join her teammates to warm up for their race, which unfortunately was not until an hour later. She asked twice how retirement is. I said it's good. We talked about rendezvousing someday for coffee or a happy hour beverage and catching up, and I wished her luck and continued with my Saturday wandering.


Portland is blessed with an abundance of farmers markets that swing into action in May. Milwaukie on Sunday morning is one of my favorites. There's a wealth of fresh produce, multiple coffee booths, live music, food vendors who offer a range of treats from gyros and Mediterranean appetizers to chorizo, crepes, and the Ethiopian fare for which I have a soft spot, and much more.


It's a 25-minute bus ride to Milwaukie on Sunday morning when traffic is light. I like to make it there early to hit Spring Creek Coffee House for an americano and journal session before the farmers market opens at 9:30. Instead of going from Spring Creek directly to the farmers market a block away, I detour for a scenic route that takes me across McLoughlin Boulevard to Milwaukie Bay Park just to rest my eyes on the Willamette River for a moment before making my way back to the market.


The farmers market, like the waterfront yesterday, was bustling with people in good spirits, old and young, of many shadings of skin and ethnicity and degree of maturity, dress and demeanor, tattooed and not tattooed, gay and lively, all sorts and manner of us in the commonality of our humanness on these days of festival and wandering.

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David Matthews

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