Perfect Weekend

(I was slow to get this proofed and posted–the “last weekend” I refer to is Oct. 19-21.)

I haven’t bragged on the joys of life in Portland for a while, so I hope you’ll indulge me as I report on the pretty much perfect weekend we had last week. First, best, always: it’s well and truly Autumn now, with the trees starting to drop crunchy golden leaves everywhere and bands of rainy weather sweeping through, washing the streets clean. We had a friend in town, scoping the place out, considering whether Portland would be a good fit for his family. Seeing as we like these people, and would love to have them nearby, we put on a good show–and Portland helped out. (Well, except for the way it would start dumping rain as soon as we left shelter, then dry up when we were safely inside again. Very funny, weather imps.) Our guest had fortuitously chosen to visit on a weekend when some major Portland highlights were happening, and he got to experience them with us.

Friday night, we attended a Halloween-themed aerial circus, in which one of Ken’s nieces performed. Let me emphasize a couple of things there: Halloween-themed. Aerial circus. Fantastic! A little music, a little comedy, a lot of spectacular acrobatic work by truly talented artists. We attended the show last year, and it became an instant tradition for us. At least, I hope we get to go to a show like that every autumn, it’s just so wonderful.

Saturday night, we made the pilgrimage to the Davis Graveyard, which is a simply astounding amateur (in the truest sense of the word!) yard haunt. I’ve been following Chris Davis’ blog for a couple of years, and was excited to finally make it out to see the sights–and it was so worth the trip! I encourage you to look through their photo gallery, because words aren’t going to do it justice. What wonderful dedication to good, old-fashioned (and new-fangled!) Halloween decorating. I’m so inspired by their vision, I’m thinking about treating myself to one of their prop-building classes next year.

Sunday morning, we planned to make an excursion to Sauvie Island for gourds and goodies, but a funny thing happened on the way to the pumpkin patch: just before we got on the freeway, my car died. Flat dead, all power gone from one moment to the next. Unsettling, to say the least! Fortunately, it picked an unbelievably ideal moment to kack it: it had enough momentum to finish crossing the busy intersection we were in and safely pull over. There was open space at the beginning of the next block, which is hugely lucky, because there wasn’t enough power to attempt parallel parking. If it had gone just a few minutes later, we would have been on the freeway when it died. Or we could have been stuck in the traffic flow, ruining every one else’s day as well as ours, and making it much more dangerous to investigate the problem. Fortunately, we were in a safe position, so I called Ken to tell him what happened. I had an idea he could come rescue my passengers, not that they would hear of such a thing. Good friends and kind people, they weren’t about to leave me alone to deal with the problem. But it was still good I called, because my sensible spouse said, “Did you get under the hood and check your battery connection?” Uh, no? Bad thing happens = I call Ken (or my Mom, depending on the nature of the bad thing.) Emotional support first, practical response to situation second.

Pop the hood, jiggle connections that seem discouragingly solid, replace askew terminal insulator cap. Open car door, hear the cheery sound of the “You left your keys, dummy!” chime. Huh. Cautiously attempt to start car, which roars to life. Let the relief wash over, then take a poll: “So…do we still want to drive out into the country today?” No, we did not. We wanted to get home while the car was behaving, before it could throw a bigger problem at us. So, home we went, after possibly the most fortuitous car break-down ever. Maybe it would have been fine, but maybe we would have had worse luck further on–collectively, we were superstitious enough to take it as a sign. As it happens, the car has been running just fine ever since, so…we really may not have been meant to go to the pumpkin patch that day. (Also, I may not understand what the insulator cap does, because pushing it back into place was all we did to fix it.)

Sunday afternoon, we had another very Portland event to attend: the annual(-ish) voting party thrown by Ken’s sister and her family. One great aspect to life in Portland is that we do all our voting by mail–the state mails out ballots and voters’ guides a few weeks ahead of the election, we fill them out and mail them back or drop them off. For years now, the family has been hosting a voting party potluck–bring your materials, opinions, knowledge of the issues, and a little something to nosh on, and join the conversation. We go through the ballot item by item, anyone who has something to say says it, people ask questions, we consult local voting guides (from newspapers and advocacy groups, like the League of Women Voters) and generally vote in as informed a way as possible. How many times have you gone into a voting booth, knowing how you want to vote for President and Congress, but found a long list of judges, board and commission members, and local issues you know nothing about? What do you do? Guess? Vote by party? Pick the name you like best? Skip them entirely? Wouldn’t you love to be able to look up information on candidates and issues while you were voting? We do. It takes a couple of hours–more, if there are contentious items or candidates–and it is probably the single best thing we do, citizenship-wise. If I should ever leave Oregon, I am resolved to vote by absentee ballot wherever I go; I won’t feel like an informed voter, otherwise.

It was a packed weekend, with some thrills, a few chills, and one spill that turned out so much better than it could have. I didn’t feel well-rested, come Monday morning, but I did feel deeply satisfied with life in Portland.

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