Portland, one of the cooler cities in the west.

At what age do you start dressing like a grown up?

This thought hit me as I stared out of my hotel room one day in Portland. Everybody, and I mean everybody – from college aged to Grandma, passing by in downtown Portland was dressed like I do when I’m working at home. Like a slob who just rolled out of bed. Many were wandering down the street, baggy jeans and T-shirt, coffee cup in hand.

I couldn’t help thinking, is that what I look like?

As I mentioned in my last blog, I didn’t go anywhere for awhile so I’m out of practice. And worse yet, my American elite status lapsed so I’m left in steerage with the unwashed. The minute I hit the airport to fly out, I knew I had made a huge mistake. Actually, I figured that earlier when I tried to book a flight to Portland from DFW. To make it short, there were none that were direct and few that left at a decent time of morning and arriving when I needed to be there – roughly noon. So I ended up leaving at 7AM, which meant my wife had to wake up with me at 4:45 to drop me off, bleary eyed, at DFW. The first outrage of the day was the $25 to check bags. Screw that. I’ll carry on. Also, no priority boarding for me today. So I paid the $9 for group 1. I had a sense of doom, and the possibility of getting on board with all my carry-ons was some comfort.

Harbinger of doom? Even the departure screen was hosed.

DFW is a 24×7 operation. So it was little surprise to see a Dickey’s BBQ open for business and selling BBQ at five in the morning. Funnier even still was what turned out to be our head stewardess, choking down Dickies at the gate. American stewardesses are funny. I have bad eyes, so the first thing I notice is the hair. When they get closer you realize that under that hair is the crypt-keeper. American has the oldest, and some of the meanest stewardesses. This one looked like at one time she could have been Brittany Spears. Only, now on the higher side of 60.
The only other soul around at that hour was an asian girl, later joined by her mom, engrossed in a laptop who asked me if there were free wireless here. My reply was something along the lines of nothing being free in DFW, ever. When they called the flight my forethought od paying for a group #1 slot paid off, as half the plane boarded under platinum. Apparently, American has changed their plans – there are Platinum Plus, Platinum, and Screw You.

By the time I got on, overhead space was precious. Soon, it was all gone. Lesson learned, never ever ever fly out to a west coast software city (in my case I was connecting in San Jose) Monday early. Rather, fly out when I normally fly out – Sunday evening. The stewardesses apppeared to be cryptkeeper Britany, a chubby lady that looked like Sgt. Shultz in a wig, and a large black man seemed to be in evil mood. And in coach, the seats appear to be getting closer. I’m not getting taller, and I’m losing weight, so my knees shouldn’t be hitting the seat in front. Boarding misery aside, , the plane started away from the gate on time.
It got almost to the runway before Shultz noticed the asian girl and her mom in the bulkhead seat had bags on the floor. There was a terse exchange, and Shultz grabbed the bags dropping one in the process.
BAM! the laptop hit the deck. Without acknowledgement, Shultz stuffed the bags in an overhead in first class.

The poor girl was beside herself. I really felt bad for her. Should have stuffed her laptop behind her back like I’ve done when in the bulkhead seat.

My flight was really uneventful, if not uncomfortable. The connection to Alaska air shook me though. Nice stewardesses, nice seats – same damn plane as the American one, only with knee space. Nicest flight I’ve had in years. Treating normal passengers like humans! Whoa! Might be time to tell American to kiss off.

Ahhh…..for chrissakes hang up the cell, and get outta the way.
Something I deal with at every airport.

In Portland, I shunned the car. Google showed me that the train left from the airport (like almost inside) and dropped me off on the corner by my hotel. Besides, the hotel charged along the lines of $30 a day to park. First thing I noticed on the train?  I’m cold. Dammit. Texas it was 70’s. Portland – 40’s, and rainy. Crap, another rookie mistake. Should have checked the weather. I’d have to score a jacket. The thought hit me to get out on one of the stops where I spied a Target. Nah..I thought, surely they’ll have something downtown. I spent most of the afternoon going from shop to shop where I found all kinds of cool rainwear in downtown Portland. All of it at the $100 level. I finally found a fleece hoodie for $30.

The crapper at the Courtyard. Is this a big problem, or a small one?
press the appropriate button.

I stayed at the Courtyard City Center which probably the nicest, coolest Courtyard I’ve ever been. The alarm clock had an iPod dock. Big screen TV, great restaurant attached. Super nice people. So Marriott still loves me, even if American Air’s shabby operation doesn’t.

Downtown is full of cool places to eat. At one brew pub I got an elk burger. My boss took me to a “biker bar” – lined up with all bicycles where we drank 1/2 price organic beers. The last night I went out on my own, and found a pub with the bartender in a national bohemian shirt. That started a funny conversation  – you don’t serve that do you? They didn’t. I ordered a Chernobyl stout. Actually I had a few. It sported a 13.4% alcohol content. However, they had no food though. So I left with an $8 tab to search for grub.While there though one of wacky Portland foodie types asked  “Could you tell me about the beer?”  What about it? asked the nattie-bo logoed bartener.  Foodies in Portland are a weird group. I asked a waitress at one point just what was “sustainable” about the alaskan halibut on the menu? If you want to see this in action, youtube “portlandia”. during the trip I oerheard more than one dumb question about food.

Oh yeah!

There are so many cool places to go eat in downtown Portland. One of the more famous – Voodoo donuts – has funky cool donuts – like a maple bar with bacon on the top. Never made it there though. I avoid lines like the plague (it’s always crowded) especially when I’m buying something I really don’t need to eat. All in all, cool places to eat makes business travel palatable . Nothing worse than staying at a hotel with a “TGI Fridays” being the only restaurant for miles. This unfortunate circumstance has happened to me more than once.

Portland Biker Bar

Every time I ran into some of the locals I kept thinking, are these dudes for real? In most cities, Seattle for instance,  I’d mark them as poseurs. I asked my boss about this and he siad no, they were indeed the real deal. As he said that he looked over motioning to a couple – the missus – hippy chick, the guy – long hair, bushy beard, slob dress. Both were riding 1970 vintage bikes – “See those two? That’s classic Portand.” he said.