A Portland kind of day

On our way to the Eastbank Esplanade this morning we came across a group of vendors setting up booths beside a large stage, with a sign above reading, “Salsa en la Calle.” It’s not unusual to bump into festivals small and large during a Portland summer, so we weren’t surprised, only pleased to know that when we finished our loop walk there would be good food waiting for us.

The riverside path was surprisingly uncrowded for a Sunday. Maybe the low clouds and threat of rain were keeping people away. Still, there were enough strollers, bicyclers, runners and skate-borders to make it interesting. This is one of my favorite things to do in Portland. I love the river and the broad views and the people-watching. The eastside portion is noisy due to the freeway, but once we crossed the Steel Bridge to the west side the roar diminished to a reasonable hum.

We passed the Japanese-American plaza, with its bank of cherry trees and the usual sad collection of homeless and destitute, and continued south toward Tom McCall Park. More cyclists, walkers, and wandering tourists appeared, and so did the sun. A man in street clothes running sprint intervals kept passing us, his alternating rest periods and sprints matching our pace. A cyclist wearing an aviator helmet and a military gunbelt rode by and we wondered briefly if we should call 911; but would a terrorist look so wacky? A family of tourists asked us if we lived in Portland and looked confused when we both answered, “sort of.” But we were able to direct them to the Saturday (Sunday) Market so they went away happy.

Back across the Hawthorne Bridge the live salsa band was pounding out a hard-to-resist beat, and the food booths were open for business. We stepped up and ordered two tacos and a burrito and proceeded to eat the best Mexican food we’ve had since Mexico. We watched the dancers for awhile, but they were far better than anything we could manage so we slunk away and headed for the Saturday market ourselves.

We hadn’t been to a market in years, but it hasn’t changed a whit. You can still find tie-die t-shirts, hanging plant hangers, pottery of all kinds, and hand-made clothes, bags, and jewelry. There is still an eclectic selection of food booths: African, Indonesian, Afgani, Thai, Middle Eastern, and of course Mexican.

You can buy coffee, tea, Italian sodas, orchata, fresh-squeezed juice, smoothies, and milkshakes while you rub shoulders with tourists, hippies, weirdos and wackos, the lost, the unfortunate, and just regular folks. We watched buskers and wandered, while local musicians played cool jazz and raucous rock and roll.

Eventually suffering sensory overload we reeled away, hopping the Max to Powell’s (bypassing the Summer in the Square festival, with more food booths and entertainment), where I found in the red room a book I’d been wanting to read.

Powell’s always makes me a little dizzy so after finding my book we kept our eyes forward and headed directly for the check-out stand and the Max. Then, five hours after leaving home, we unlocked the door, kicked off our now too-tight shoes, and settled in with the Sunday paper and a cup of hot tea.

It was a very pleasant Sunday.