Sublime Sundays

Portland is a lot of things. Stunningly beautiful, for one. It's like a jewel city twinkling with craftsman architecture, lacy Victorian homes and old stone churches. Its overall colors are green, from the lush layer of trees that gracefully cover the city, and grey from the changing sky, dramatic clouds and the rivers that reflect them. Portland dangles on a necklace of waterfalls between the snow-capped Mount Hood and the Oregon coast. It's kind of like paradise, in some ways.

Unfortunately it's also JAM PACKED with people. And growing every day. When we arrived almost nine years ago, it was crowded, but not unmanageable. If you got out early enough and didn't have the highest expectations, you usually did pretty good and could even have a relaxing time at certain events. Not so now. The seams of the city are busting. The influx of out-of-staters looking for that WEIRD Portland experience is truly sweeping through the city like a wave, with condos going up everywhere you turn. Everywhere are lines of people, lines of cars, great herds of bicycles all competing aggressively with each other, great hoards of clueless pedestrians, jumping into traffic, or shoving their baby strollers in front of oncoming cars because they heard that "in Portland the cars have to stop for you!" It'll make you rip your hair out, just driving the ten blocks to Freddy's on 39th and Hawthorne. Just like that terrible old Bad Religion song, those people are "playing frogger with their lives!" Or in this case with their babies' lives. It's totally nuts!

Very few people on the beach or the river on a Sunday morning. Just us and the birds!

Add to all this the never-ending, quirky EVENTS that occur every weekend of the year in this town, and the party never ends. You've got your street fairs, your rummage sales, your record swaps, your naked bike rides, your family bike rides, your cancer bike rides, your marathons, your blues festivals, your farmers get the idea. Sure it sounds wholesome (except for the naked bike ride) and fabulous, in theory. But in practice it is a kind of living hell. Noise, yelling, motorcycles, buses, construction, drunk people, fireworks, it's like Apocolypse Now outside our house sometimes. The only relief is when it happens to rain really hard and dampens it all down a bit. Global warming unfortunately means that it rains a lot less here than it used to, and the loud people clearly are multiplying.

So...Greg and Faye and I, who do need our peace and quiet, have taken to claiming early Sunday mornings as our own. Before 9am on a Sunday is the very best time all week to explore and enjoy Portland. Somehow, almost miraculously, the streets are clean at that hour. Where squalor and idiocy reigned supreme only hours before is now practically free of cigarette butts, and actually smells nice!

Sunday morning is when we put Faye in the car and drive to more out-of-the-way neighborhoods. Deep into northwest Portland we'll go, or over Mt. Tabor to the Montavilla neighborhood, or to the marina in southwest, or down to the river in Sellwood. Peaceful, fresh, sublime. The city on a Sunday morning is like the best church in the world. You can feel the goodness of nature and lovely architecture coming together without the frantic chaos of humans struggling to get through their day.

Sunday morning you can hear the birds more clearly than anything else, and they seem riotous with joy at their freedom from the week's oppressive chaos.