pizza party before departure
Tuesday, June 15 2010
location: northeast Portland, Oregon
Despite the anti-allergy medication, I woke this morning with an uncomfortable tightness building in my lungs in reaction to Eleanor, Gilley's cat to which I am allergic. I found every inhale and exhale producing a warbling tweet. Gretchen heard me trying to develop the sort of cough necessary to bring up phlegm from deep deep down, and she suggested I get the hell out of the basement and try to sleep on the couch upstairs in the office where the allergens were fewer. So I took a Zyrtec and went upstairs. But Zyrtec is a stimulant and by then I'd lost the inclination to sleep in any case. So I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood in hopes of tracking down the means to treat a different medical problem: athlete's foot. Normally I carry athlete's foot cream when I travel, but I'd been traveling light on this trip. It's easy to assume that the medical maladies that afflict me are common in the human population generally, but this isn't always the case. I'd looked in Gilley and Alan's medicine cabinet, but they'd had nothing on hand to treat any sort of fungal infections, indicating that they've rarely or never suffered from them. By this point in the trip, the place on the underside of the joint where my right pinky toe connects to my foot was raw and suffered a little with every footstep. I'd transitioned to flip flops in hopes of giving my feet the air necessary to dry out. But I suspect the problem had been more one of temperature than one of moisture. I'd kept my feet insufficiently warm on this trip, wearing either Crocs or flip flops in decidedly non-summery conditions. Experience has taught me that my immune system has more trouble fighting off fungal infections when my extremes are kept too cold for long periods of time.
In addition to allergy medication (for dealing with the rare cats to which I am allergic) and athlete's foot cream, another useful item to have packed in my travel bag would have been either scissors or toenail clippers. I doubt scissors would make it through airport security, and it's possible even toenail clippers are still forbidden (ever since Mahmoud Al-Burayadah attempted to hijack a 737 by holding a set of toenail clippers to the throat of a stewardess). But living off the land was also proving difficult; I had great difficulty finding scissors (yes, scissors) in Gilley and Alan's house. (And he's a fly fisherman who ties his own flies!) This might sound like a trivial inconvenience, but I'd suffered for days on this trip from snaggly toenails catching on bed sheets. Before finally finding scissors at Gilley's, the closest to a solution had come at Mt. Hood, when our complimentary bag of bathroom items had included a piece of emory paper.
One final item to be sure to include in every travel kit is either baking soda or Tums. I often suffer from acid reflux when I eat certain foods (particularly beans in combination with corn), and the relief is alway easy to find when I'm at home. Baking soda is immediately effective and produces a nice satisfying burp as well. But in hotels or the homes of strangers, one is unlikely to find baking soda or even conventional antacids. I don't know if baking soda can actually be taken aboard a plane without causing suspicion of cocaine smuggling, but I'll probably at least think about packing it for my next vacation.
I walked down to the intersection of Killingsworth and 33rd Avenue in hopes of finding a store that was open and might have athlete's foot cream in stock. I found a 7-11 type place, but they didn't have any. And the Wallgreen's kitty corner across the interesection was still closed and wouldn't be opening for another half hour. It was time of day that is owned entirely by crows and men who push shopping carts while muttering to themselves. At this time of day, those carts are still empty.
For some reason, the crows took a special interest in me, with several different pairs following me up the street for some blocks. One would land on the telephone line just ahead of me, stare directly at me, and start cawing. Then another would land a little further ahead and the pattern would continue. Perhaps they were alarmed to see a human being walking around at that time of day who was neither muttering to himself nor pushing an empty shopping car.
After Gretchen got up, we went for a stroll to get athlete's foot medication and vegan breakfast items. Within a minute of buying the athlete's foot cream, I applied it to all of my toes (not just the trouble one). Next we went to New Seasons Market so Gretchen could get some baking supplies, and while there I bought a bagel fully outfitted with tomato, red onions, vegan cream cheese, and capers. Though expensive, I can't imagine a better way to begin another day of eating in Portland.
The eating continued along Alberta, where Gretchen went to a vegan bakery and bought some items. It began raining soon thereafter, but we made it back to Gilley's without getting too wet.
After Gretchen finished baking a banana cake, drove south to have the last of our Portland vegan restaurant experiences. We ended up at Papa G's that great vegan deli where we'd stocked up on airplane food before our last flight from Portland. We had plans of doing the same again, but then it turned out that everything we ordered at Papa G's was terrible! (I actually liked my chili, but Gretchen tasted it and found it underwhelming.) I was particularly struck by the blandess of my sandwich, which was grossly inferior to the typical sandwich I can absentmindedly make for myself. And Gretchen was horrified when she tried the mac & "cheese," declaring later, "it tasted like there was something something in there that wasn't food." Suffice it to say, we didn't buy any food for the airplane there this time.
We hadn't brought directions, but at this point in our trip we thought we knew enough about Portland to find our way to the hip and up & coming neighborhood along Mississippi Avenue. But we hadn't realized how far west the east bank of the Willamette River can go, and so got lost somewhere in the tangle where I-84 crosses Martin Luther King Blvd. But we asked for directions and managed to get to Mississippi eventually.
Our main reason for going to Mississippi was to buy an enormous vegan pizza from the Mississippi Pizza Pub, restaurant that supposedly knows how to make them. First, of course (because it's what girls want to do), we walked up and down the strip to see if much had changed in the year since we'd last been here. It was a little too early in the day for Amnesia Bar and Grill, but that weird lightbulb store was still an ongoing concern and featured someone's Lego sculptures in its store windows (along with its usual wacky assortment of lighting solutions). One business that looked new was a coffee shop attached to a trailer. It had gravel-floored enclosure for customers that looked as if it had been made entirely out of old windows from the nearby Rebuilding Center.
The Mississippi Pizza Pub looked like a fun place, and not just for the canoodling lesbian couple in the booth. Too bad we weren't there long enough for me to sample one of their IPAs.
Back at Gilley's, Gretchen made radio contact with Gilley and we arranged to do happy hour in the main dining room at the Kennedy School, the place that had introduced Gretchen and me to all that is wonderful in the McMenamins universe. We made it to the Kennedy School with only about fifteen minutes of happy hour remaining. As you might expect, Gretchen ordered the Ruby and I ordered the IPA. Interestingly, though, Gretchen didn't think her Ruby was as good as the ones she'd had in Bend, while I found my IPA much better. Interestingly, there were a fair number of kids in the dining room for happy hour. As places to get drunk with your prepubescent kids go, it's hard to beat the Kennedy School.
Eventually we were joined by Gilley (but not Alan). Gilley likes beer, so she's into IPAs.
Back again to Gilley's house, and the time was running out before our flight back to the humid East. By now Alan had joined us, so Gretchen reheated the pizza and we had something of a vegan pizza party. On the way back from Mississippi, the pizza had fallen off the backseat and I'd had to correct some jacked-up slices. In licking my finger afterwards, I'd caught some unpleasant notes from the vegan cheese. But once reheated, the pizza seemed to be as tasty as the non-vegan variety. Vegan cheese certainly has come a long way since the dreary caulk-like soy-based substance used as a cheese substitute back during my college years.
Using incredibly detailed instructions that Gilley had given us, we managed to find the satellite location for Thrifty Rent-a-Car. Though Gretchen had called beforehand to confirm we wouldn't be billed an extraneous charge for returning our car 23 hours early, the guy at Thrifty tried to slap on a surcharge. Gretchen and I raised holy hell. I was a little drunk from two IPAs and a lager back at Gilley's house, so I might well have come off as a bit threatening. For that or perhaps other reason, this proposed charge was quickly dropped. Here's what we have to say about Thrifty: never again.
The bad news about our flight home was that we'd be seated separately, each of us in a middle seat between strangers. But before heading to the bathroom, Gretchen told me to try to fix the situation. So I talked to the guy at the gate and managed to make it so we could sit together (this was the first time I'd ever achieved any sort of modification to a flight and it was actually sort of empowering).
We ended up next to a geeky guy with a Droid cellphone. He saw me whip out my MSI-Wind U123 and asked how I liked it. "I've only had it for nine days, but it's great!" I declared. He chuckled under his breath and then said he used to like his Acer subnotebook too, but then it had started falling apart on him. "Yeah, well they're all made cheaply in China," I said.
By this point Gretchen's ambien was kicking in and her speech was slurring. But this didn't keep her from talking to Mr. Nerdy Nerd about his Droid.
As Gretchen was passing out, I started watching Hot Tub Time Machine on the laptop. I managed to watch the whole thing, but didn't especially enjoy it. Nothing seemed all that funny to me except for the subplot of the possible ways the bellhop might have lost his arm.
I'd taken a muscle relaxant, but it didn't seem to have much effect on me. Eventually I managed to fall asleep with my head against the airplane window. But it was a shallow, fragile sort of sleep.
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