Saturday, May 8, 2010


It’s taken me a few days to get my Portland entry up, mostly because I’ve been in denial that I am not in Portland anymore.

My time in the city was spent at big vegetarian dinner parties and gay dance nights and in colossal bookstores and watching Rodney Dangerfield movies, so it’s really the closest thing to heaven on earth that one can achieve. I knew I was in love when I showed up to my host’s house and there was a bagel sitting on the window sill with incense sticking out of it at every which way as a makeshift incense holder. These are my people.

The first night that I got in, Talia was hosting a dinner party at her massive, adorable house that was teeming with musicians and Australians and kittens. After a quick strategizing, we separated into Team Food and Team Booze to make our grocery runs in preparation for the meal. Lindsey, Caitlin and I were, appropriately, Team Booze and spent an hour at Trader Joes picking out wine based on the labels (and whether or not it was under $8) and agonizing over our cheese selection as if our re-entry into the home was at stake if we got the chevre instead of the brie. (Editor’s Note: What a pompous sentence.)

Back at Talia’s, it was a lot of dancing to Motown and singing along to old soul and Nancy Sinatra and…Neil Diamond. We all assumed our roles, from carrot peeler to Pandora regulator, drinking wine and laughing and meeting new people while a handsome Australian man slaved away in the kitchen making an entrée that we would all be too full to eat by the time it was done. Basically, the entire night was living out my lifelong dream of being in The Big Chill, minus dead Kevin Costner.

After dinner, we decided to go out for drinks. I was warned before heading to Matador that it is kind of an old-man dive, there might not be too many people there, it’s dingy, etc. (Editor’s Note: See, Portland really is heaven.) However, as soon as I walked in the door, I literally tripped over a Cleopatra drag queen, and there were adorable gay men everywhere drinking beers, taking photobooth pictures, and dancing to Lady Gaga. Not one to question it, I got a Lagunitas and jumped on the dance floor. During one of our photobooth excursions, two men decided that we needed guidance and decided to go all Tyra on us, from advising us to smize to helping us plan out our strip, frame by frame, with props before giving us a kiss and jumping back to the dance floor before “I Touch Myself” was over.

The next morning, Caitlin took me on a walking tour of Portland, from the parks where people were freely smoking weed to the donut shops with 2-block lines, to the Saturday Market full of hippies and vegan hipsters. We browsed and shopped and spent an embarrassing amount of time laughing at the dirty names of the incense at a head shop. The rest of the day was filled with thrifting, being scolded by bitchy boutique owners, eating massive amounts of Froyo, lusting after million-dollar purple cottages, and finding oil paintings of Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. We followed this up with a carnival that cost way too much money and made all of us physically ill, but was worth it after visiting The Photoshop Booth then getting an F. Scott Fitzgerald airbrushed tee shirt.

Apparently, people in Portland actually have jobs and stuff, and don’t just live the idyllic dream life I’d imagined, as everyone went to work the next morning, leaving me to wander Portland. Continuing the trip’s theme of “My Life is Really Tough”, I spent the day trying four different coffee shops, smoking and reading in parks, and (if I could insert dramatic music, it would go here) POWELL’S BOOKS. It is one city block of books, glorious, glorious books! It also ships back to Chicago, giving me no reason to practice any restraint.  When I pray at night, it is in the direction of Powell’s.

After another coffee shop, tea with Kay and John, and a stop at the Korean bulgogi barbecue tofu truck, I headed to Portland City Grill, where the view is amazing, the appetizers are cheap for fancy martini’s and mojitos with Caitlin, Lindsey, Talia and Meghan (Editor’s Note: I swear that we actually went there, despite the photoshopped-looking background of the above photo.)

After Portland City Grill, Talia invited me to “Family Dinner” at her friend Amy’s house. Furthering the Big Chill-theme, they get together for big dinners with friends and listen to music and talk about what they’re grateful for. They set up a large buffet where you put together your own grilled cheese with five cheeses, three breads, avocados, peppers…do you understand why Portland = heaven?

In the morning, before catching the California Zephyr to Denver, I got Cuban food at Talia’s restaurant Pambiche with Caitlin and Australia Chris before wandering the Portland rose gardens. As I rolled out of Portland, a rainbow was cast across the field outside of the train station. Honestly, if a unicorn would have slid down it into a pot of gold guarded by a leprechaun, it would not have surprised me. Portland was just that good, I would have assumed that’s just what happens on Tuesdays in PDX.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


This adventure is the best idea I've ever had. Even better than that time I bought my terrier a hot dog costume. (But it's close.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Everywhere You Look, There’s a Friend, a Hand to Hold Onto

Yeah, the subject line of this post is from the Full House theme. What of it? It’s a post about San Francisco and would not be complete without at least one Danny Tanner/Jesse and the Rippers/How Ruuuuude reference.

When I got off the train, I had to take a bus over the Bay Bridge to the San Francisco Ferry Building. It was just me and a British guy that had also rode in from Los Angeles and both of us were completely lost and disoriented. We had asked our driver for some kind of direction, but Lost was on, so he literally dropped us off at a random intersection in the middle of traffic and told us just to take a cab wherever we needed to go. The power of Lost, man…

Luckily, my ride was just down the street. Ever the quintessential California Girl, Kay picked me up in her Jeep and took me out for locally-made beers and vegan duck before we headed back to her gorgeous apartment that was across the park from the Full House house! Yes, this was a legitimate selling point that really solidified this trip for me. The other selling point? Whenever you were in Kay and John’s apartment, you could not go more than five minutes without a full meal and a glass of wine appearing in front of you.

In the morning, I attempted to head to Golden Gate Park, but still a novice at the SF transit system, I ended up downtown, causing great worry for my coworker (and former San Francisco dweller) who was helping me navigate the city via gchat. Apparently it’s a really sketchy area, but that day there was a great farmer’s market, so I just pretended that no one was going to murder me and bought some oranges. (Spoiler Alert: no one murdered me.)

I eventually made it to Golden Gate Park, hitting up the de Young Museum of Fine Art since I really needed to add some culture to my trip that had inadvertently turned into “Meg Getting Drunk and Crawling Into Photobooths Around America”. After a stop in the Japanese Tea Gardens and Shakespeare Rose Gardens (where there was a disappointing lack of “a rose by any other name” puns), I decided I was cultured enough and hit up The Trophy Room in Lower Haight for a 3pm watermelon-wheat beer and made friends with a fellow vagabond from Seattle.

I then hit up Haight/Ashbury, because my 16-year-old self would find a DeLorean and come kill me if I didn’t. It was just as glorious and rainbowy and weird as I had hoped, as long as I could ignore the fact that there was now an American Apparel there. I just wandered around drinking coffee and shopping for tacky jewelry and sequined hotpants. At one point, a group of hippies called for my attention, but assuming they wanted money, I kept walking. However, they were persistent and ended up not wanting money at all, rather they wanted to show me their pet chicken. After confirming that this was not a dirty euphemism, I relented and they actually pulled out a baby chicken. So I sat with them smoking cigarettes and hanging out until the rain came and I headed home.

I was unable to coordinate any plans with Trent in San Francisco, due to an extended game of phone tag. We finally got in touch when he called me as I was meeting Nick and was like “Hey, I actually did make it to the city, where are you?” and I was standing across the street from him. After standing on the corner trying to process that we were all standing on a corner in San Francisco together, Nick and I grabbed some beers and shots of Wild Turkey (I should really call this blog “Good Decisions with Meg Zandi”) while Trent ate dinner before we all convened at the Elbo Room for a birthday party. The time at the Elbo Room is a bit fuzzy, but I remember laughing really hard and doing shots of Fernet and drinking Chimay before squeezing into a photobooth with two very cute boys, and I feel that is all I need to remember.

Next morning, Kay the San Francisco Native took me on the full tour of the city from Pier 39 to Twin Peaks to the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower to the Castro and Mission District and real seafood (apparently Bay-Area people don’t believe that anyone who doesn’t live within 10 miles of water shouldn’t trust seafood, which now thinking about it, I think I agree.) Basically, any question you could have about the city, she would have the answer and a back story. It was like having a well-dressed, petite Sherpa.

My little Sherpa then took me home and filled me with wine and a fantastically large dinner full of veggies and tofu and fresh seafood before we left for a progressive political party (with the clever tag line on their street-themed posters of “no right turn”) After a bit of rum and schmoozing, we headed to The Café in the Castro, because no trip to San Francisco is really complete until you’ve been to a bar where gay men are dancing naked on tables as rainbow lights flash around them. At this point, our other friends had just finished with their moped-gang-meeting (you can’t make this shit up) and joined us at yet another dive bar that had more local brews yet another photobooth. I swear, you could take me somewhere where they beat puppies and hate women is full of Republicans and red meat and as long as they had endless photobooths, I think I could call it home.

Now, the downside of all these schmoozy parties full of scotch and gay bars full of vodka and dive bars full of beer is that in the morning, being productive and exploring a city full of hills on public transportation does not sound like a very good idea. So it was a day of lazing around sleeping off hangovers, which after two and half weeks of traveling felt quite good. At one point, I mustered up the energy to get an eggplant sandwich and take a nap in the park. (Editor’s Note: I know, the dismal tone of these entries and reading the strife that I encounter on a daily basis may be too much for my younger readers. I apologize for the lack of disclaimer.) After expending the energy to eat that sandwich, I needed more fuel in the form of veggie mushroom tacos at The Little Chihuahua before catching my train to Portland.

While I was at the Amtrak station, my friend Casey, who lives across the Bay, took a bus over to wait with me and do as much catching up as we could do in a half hour when we hadn’t seen each other in 7 years. Nonetheless, the familiar face and the warm energy were much appreciated as I jumped on a train for the 18 hour ride up the coast.

On this 18 hour ride, one couple was arrested for copulating in their seats in front of 60+ people. Another guy was kicked off for sneaking on 40s and getting unbelievably drunk. At one point, the phrase “is anyone here a doctor?” was used in a serious context. But I also woke up to the sun rising over snow capped mountains and rolled through national parks and along riverbeds listening to Cosmic Warrior. Why haven’t you, loyal reader, booked your Amtrak trip yet?

Goodbye, San Francisco. Thanks for being just as loopy and progressive and gay and sunny as I had hoped you’d be. Warm regards, Meg.