May 20 2011

In the closet.

Portland is a city of hoods.  I am not talking about gangs or quaint residential areas but something very practical:  rain gear. For the majority of the year I’d be miserable, instead of fairly unfazed, if not for my tried and true, knee-length, lined, washable (ignore the label), black hooded raincoat.  Carry an umbrella around and people assume you are either a tourist or a Californian.

Ditching an umbrella is even more practical in Oklahoma where stronger winds blow heavier rains sideways.  In the Tulsa Airport I spotted a woman in my very same raincoat.  “Norm Thompson?” I paused to ask.  “Yes!” was the reply.  We’d both shopped online two years earlier – while both living in Portland.   What are the chances?

Raincoats don’t seem to go on sale in the Northwest (I have my cap set for a Mycra Pac full-length, if they do) but they are retired to the closet during the dry season.  I was hanging my faithful companion up this month when I noticed my wedding dress.

Call me curious. I decided to try on the dress I hadn’t worn for almost 23 years to the day.  On our first anniversary I was pregnant and outfitted in a lovely, shimmery tent, but on our second anniversary I switched out the white wedding day pumps for silver evening shoes and headed to a Tulsa Opera spring production, elegantly dressed in a tea-length, strapless gown.  If only bridesmaid dresses in the late 80’s had been so, well, so – practical!

As I slipped into the dress I imagined an extra three pounds of weight would show as much in a dress as under a hooded raincoat.   I was wrong!   Above my waist the two sides of the zipper didn’t have a chance of meeting.  Unless the gravity factor associated with aging and weight gain has reversed itself, I can only reason that my rib cage has expanded over the years to fit the much bigger, fuller, compassionate heart that once belonged to a young woman just opening her heart to love.

May 13 2011

Take a look.

May 13th, 2011

As the song goes, “I have always been a woman who arranges things.”

Last Sunday in Tulsa, I moved a sofa bed.  I was very mindful of how it would look and function in the room in a new location but my real goal was to improve my view – from the sofa.  A handful of minutes and a dozen or so feet to the west and my daily outlook was radically changed simply by a more expansive, engaging view – seen from the sofa.

Three months after settling in Portland, I moved for a killer view and more balcony space.  No one would argue that it wasn’t 180 degrees of pure “WOW!” Floor-to-ceiling 11-foot windows 15-stories above the ground in the Pearl District offered sweeping views of the Willamette River, several bridges, mountains in the next state, the downtown skyline… and all the trains, ships, streetcars, planes, cars and pedestrians that crisscross the city regularly.  Rainbows were a regular, magical bonus after frequent showers. I sat for hours on the balcony, mesmerized by sunshine, clouds and countless things that drew my eye, ignited my imagination – even enchanted by birds riding the wind within arm’s length.

Yesterday I paused outside a nearby condominium building with marketing information posted near the entrance. I smiled reading it.  Accustomed to seeing information about square footage of living space, balcony area, I had yet to  read of “more square footage of window space than a typical Pearl District shotgun style studio.”  I was sold!

For years I was, I thought, a savvy business traveler.  I sat in aisle seats on airplanes. Now I will walk to the last row on a plane to snag a window seat. It has many rewards.

“When you fly into Portland, always sit on the left side of the plane,” a Tulsa doctor told me a few years back.  He is both a pilot and a frequent Oregon visitor.  “You’ll see Mt Hood on a clear day,”  he promised.  Indeed you will!

When taking off westward from Tulsa late one afternoon I enjoyed an extended, seemingly endless, very breath-taking sunset.  It was riveting.  Another time a Southwest pilot called passengers’ attention to the Grand Canyon below us.  It brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t seen the canyon since I was six years old.  It still looks HUGE!

Try this: for a few minutes today lift your gaze from you iPhone.  Be in the moment with what is around you.  Take a look, a long look. I am willing to bet you will see something new and quite wonderful.

Jan 2 2011

Blue skies.

January 2, 2011

At first the tune was hard to discern over the hum of a crowded dining room equally bursting at the seams with an abundance of winter coats and luggage further muffing sounds.  It wasn’t my imagination; holiday carols were over for 10 months! Michael Buble crooning “Home” (the tale of a frequent traveler), signaled 2011 was approaching. It was New Year’s Eve. I was seated by a fire and an electrical outlet, recharging at Timberline Café in Denver International Airport.

As 2010 ticked down its last hours and minutes, I was traveling a new route to a familiar destination. It was refreshing.

“Why on earth are you flying north?” my mother asked via email. Experimenting with my iPhone, I had used the GPS feature to “check in” on facebook.  My route:  Portland -Spokane -Denver – Tulsa. Economics had trumped playing it safe and winging it over the southern states this time of winter.  Why else would I choose a bigger carbon footprint?

I don’t mind holiday travel.  Do you?  I find the scenery all around is more entertaining. I can take off in rainy season, climb to blue skies and drop into snowy white fields polka dotted by deicer trucks strategically stationed around the tarmac. It’s the closest to time travel I’ve come in my journeys.  Business warriors with vacant looks and cumbersome roller boards are also replaced with gaggles of families.  As I joined the gate-to-gate parade on the ground, I mused, “Boot sales must be recession proof.”  New Uggies dominated in Denver the way cowboy boots rule DFW.  I also caught myself playing a mental game of hopscotch as I passed seated travelers… Hardback, hardback, Kindle, soft cover, Kindle…” I was traveling with all three (and two pairs of boots).  Outward transformations can also occur as one moves away from home, away from routine.  Many parents at nearby tables were still tightly tethered to electronic devises. For some, the laptops and cell phones will retreat to carry-ons by the the time they board cruise ships down south. Conversations will begin with their children as bandwidth narrows. It was already true for a single mom and her daughter to my right.   The little girl had lots to tell the waitress about their itinerary.  Her bright face, unaided by a LED scene, was like a lighthouse beaming in the low-lit dining room.

What was ahead for me in 2011?  What do you picture around the bend?  As I set off for gate 47 my pace quickened.  Soon I’d be flying toward the New Year! I have seen for myself there is plenty of blue sky when you expand your horizons. Let’s do it together!

Here’s to 2011!

Always, Trix

Apr 28 2010

Down on the ground.

April 26th, 2010

Some people are avoiding air travel these days.  I don’t have that luxury, nor would I consider it if I did.  The sticky wicket for many:  logging more ground time than moments up in the air.

Growing up overseas meant LONG flights, such as Sydney to LA.  As a young working professional for Mapco,  I racked up travel hours well into five digits.  Now I spend at least two working days a month computing between Tulsa and Portland.  That doesn’t count the time to pack and unpack, to get to the airport and from the airport and to stand in line(s).  A puzzling piece of glass art in my carry-on tote this trip kept me at PDX security an extra 10 minutes.

“Why do you fly UPS?!” a colleague teased me in a text message he sent last month while I was in transit.  He was  indirectly marveling that I was traveling at roughly the warp speed of 100 MPH between cities.

And no, I don’t travel UPS.  Despite over two million miles with American (according to my Advantage account), I normally respond well to the cattle call of Southwest.  And “luv” them I do for on-time delivery, even if the comedic antics of the flight attendants get to be a bit much when replayed upon each take off of a multi-stop flight.

A Gallup Poll trainer I met last year shared the skinny on why SW can be on time: financial incentives for employees.  According to him,  SW pilots are rewarded for on-time arrivals and fuel economies.  Ever been on a plane that arrived early at the gate only to be held captive waiting for the ground crew to hook up the jet way? Apparently this is uncommon with  SW.  The minute the jet way is connected to the plane the crew can cut to half power – not before – thereby saving fuel. Consequently,  SW captains make sure the ground crew is prepared when tail winds prevail.

Another important variable in the time equation is layover time in your connecting city.  When booking today’s PDX-TUL route, 20 minutes in DFW seemed ideal, except for someone who checks luggage.  I sucked it up and booked a later DFW-TUL flight to improve the chances of all three of us  (myself and my two 50# travel companions traveling steerage) arrived in Tulsa together. As I write this I am somewhere over the Rockies.  I’ll report back later on the success of my logic.

What doesn’t seem to matter is what city I change plans journeying between Portland and Tulsa.  Regardless of whether it is Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, St Louis, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Denver, Kansas City or St Louis, the end result is the same.  When I study the map of the lower 48 in the back of the airline magazine, the straight distance I trace between my two cities appears to be PDX-DEN-TUL.  Had I gone through Denver on my last epic adventure I would have had time to learn to snow board.  As it was, I spent the day in DFW.

If you find yourself in this position, my best advise is to concentrate on the journey and not the destination.  Regardless of which gate you land at, hop the train to Terminal D.  It is newer, lighter, and more airy.  You might meander through the stain glass labyrinth, price your perfume in the duty-free shop… but eventually make your way to the exit.   Save dining on a cheeseburger for a time you can fulfill your carving with one from Goldie’s, Lucky’s in Tulsa or Blue Hour in Portland.  Get away from the crowds and head to the dining room in the Grand Hyatt for a respite!  If you hear an automated voice upon reading the words “Grand Hyatt,” you’ve been on the DFW train a time or two.  “Now leaving for D gates and the Grand Hyatt.”

After passing the security checkpoints, stop.  Look up and you’ll enjoy whimsical art. Suspended from the ceiling.  (Seeing my upward gaze prompted a fast walking flight attendant to stop and look skyward.  Her expression seemed to say, “Well, what do you know?!”).

Yes, with a little effort, a dreaded, long layover in DFW can refresh your spirit with art, exercise and good food.

And if you are ever delayed in Portland International Airport, don’t despair.  Though I haven’t a clue why PDX edged ahead to win the “Best Airport” moniker I think contributing factors must have been the live music, on-site spa, shopping that attracts even non-travelers from the city and burbs (really) and the two-way toilet flush mechanisms.  And did I mention no sales tax?

If you still are not sold on finding the up side to airport exploration, think back to the Valentine’s Day article published in Tulsa World.  Some travelers have found love down on the ground, across the crowded space of a bustling air terminal.

Bon Voyage!


Mar 29 2010

When it rains.

March 29th, 2010

You may have heard Portland is the city of roses, the most European of American cities, the most dog friendly, the greenest, home to the most polite drivers…

Portland is a city of hoods.

That may suggest the expected collection of quaint, unique neighborhoods (a reader recently wrote of reading Portland has 120′ish) or worse – a criminal element.

By hoods, I’m speaking of apparel.  I learned this as a Portland newbie in October 2008 when the rains came.   Umbrellas, as mine did last night leaving the theatre, dance around in the wind like kennels in a Jiffy Pop tin foil dome until inverted into a lovely, stainless steel stem tulip-looking sculpture.

Yesterday spring sunshine gave way to an uncharacteristic and noisy night-long-into-day speedy rain.  After twice pushing and pulling the Whippets out for walks I puddle hopped my way solo to Safeway for staples.  A hooded character slugging home ladened with grocery bags I imagined I did not resemble the dramatic cloaked image of Meryl Streep as the French Lieutenant’s Woman surrounded by grey mist and fog.

Before I learned to dismiss coats and jacket without hoods as frivolous, I first wore a black rain hat Joel purchased at Monique’s on NW 10th Avenue.  Dear friend and fellow Tulsa transplant, Wiley Parsons,  called it “jaunty.” I think my stylish solution only shouted, “I am new! I’ll get with the program.”

It was Wiley and I that thought gloves without finger tips were the solution for cold hands when walking dogs and needing agile digits to efficiently tie doggiedoit bags.  I quickly lost one and then the mate (in the summer I would switch to regularly losing sunglasses on dog walks).  The replacement ones Wiley and Joel proudly brought home from REI were nothing short of inspired and downright goofy.  A partial mitten-like enclosure dangled from the wrists to convert the fingerless gloves to well, mittens. Good idea, poor execution.  But back to hoods versus parasols, the key to it all is we are a walking population when not crowded on street cars and disembarking from cabs. Umbrellas are bothersome, cumbersome.

It really isn’t the rain one has to cope with here, it is the greyness.  Rains are usually mists and rarely accumulate to more than that of a Midwest city.  Long Termers know to get the hell out of town by February.  The rest of us count ourselves lucky when the day brings a sun shower.  My friend Ruth Otey told me sun showers mean “the devil is beating his wife.”

Ruth moved back to Texas this week.  I’ll miss her determination to make a life here for herself and her daughter in Portland.  Ruth made no secret of her passion for anything chocolate so I’d routinely save the chocolates Umpque Bank doles out with transactions to give her on Thursdays.  Last week we paused from our duties to sample Lovejoy Bakery chocolate croissants and coffee at the kitchen table.  I wept when we said our goodbyes.  I’ll always think of her when it rains on a sunny day. Those are the days that bring rainbows.

As always, Trix