First Thursday:

On the evening of the first Thursday of every month, all the art galleries in downtown Portland begin a new month with a new show with a different artist, and stay open late into the evening. They serve glasses of wine and cubes of cheese, if you’re lucky. Many people go downtown where they fight over parking spots. Then they wander from gallery to gallery, viewing shows, stopping for a bite to eat, and Appreciating Art. And on Thursday, we became one of this crowd, because we are cool like this. Yep, this is how we roll. Can I use that phrase or does it sound self-conscious? Hmmm.

I dressed head-to-toe in black (no longer de rigueur, but I’m still building a Western-style wardrobe) and we were off. We met friends for a fashionable Bite to Eat at a cute little Italian-type place in the Pearl, a district of Portland that in recent memory was all industrial and now is all million-dollar condos and cute trendy little boutiques and Italian, Thai or Fusion restaurants. It’s a fun area, if you like that sort of thing, which I do, actually. The restaurant had a tree on the inside, and brick walls, meant to feel like you were sitting outside in an Italian street. Outside, on the Portland sidewalk, they had tables with yellow umbrellas. It seemed to me that whoever came up with that had been sampling the wine a little heavily (inside out! outside in!), but it works; it’s a fun place with fantastic gelato.

We sauntered past two outdoor concerts, several fountains and parks, and a Farmer’s Market. I wanted to buy lots of fresh produce but Donn felt that he would look conspicuous carrying boxes of blueberries and big wavy fronds of carrot through all the galleries. So we didn’t. And when we went back, they were closed.

We had a great evening viewing art, hanging out with friends, and window shopping. We started out at the Charles A. Hartman Fine Art gallery, which was featuring an artist named Dan Robinson. His images of grain elevators, loading docks, industrial and rural scenes were gorgeous—full of slanted sunset light and shadows. We really enjoyed them, although they lost Donn’s attention when he spotted an original Ansel Adams on a back wall, tucked away in a sort of office. Donn is a huge Adams fans; he told me all about when and where the photo was taken and the history of its printing. He does other party tricks too.

Friday & Saturday:

On Friday afternoon, we packed a backpack with changes of clothes and toothbrushes and headed over to some friends for the night. Hali, the oldest of the family we’re staying with, was having a birthday and a slumber party, and the basement was going to be invaded by approximately 10 or possibly 40 female teenagers, all of them no doubt giggling. Giggling makes me cross, so we decided to leave.

We ate Thai food and hung out and talked late into the night. Next morning was clear and blue; we ate a huge breakfast, piled into one car, and drove down the Columbia River Gorge for a hike. The kids scrambled over rocks in a clear brown river, crossed logs, plunged into the icy water up to their waists, cried, struggled on, and in general had a blast.

After about a mile, we were rewarded with a view of a pure-white waterfall cascading down a high cliff. “Whoa! Look at that!” shouted Abel. (I love him) The kids were, as always, amazed to see all that water, just pouring and pouring down the cliff. Where does it come from, with its inexhaustible supply? Where does it go? Although my kids are native Oregonians, they’ve forgotten their roots, and water in any large amount is surprising and fascinating to them—they’ve become like children of the desert.

But even for me, the waterfall was amazing. We hiked down to feel the spray on our faces, scrambled down thunk stones into the deep, clear brown pools, and eventually worked our way back. We drove home through the late afternoon light sparkling on the river and accentuating the crenellated rocks that line the Columbia. We bought French cheeses (good, but disappointingly different from cheese actually bought in France; the lait cru is the issue) and barbecued hamburgers, a nice mix of cultures.

Sunday:

Mitch and Tiff’s idea of celebrating a five-year-old’s birthday is grilling a huge salmon and making a variety of salads and inviting whole families over to eat, hang out, and play with Hot Wheels and Legos. So we did. Our kids did the playing and we did a lot of the eating. Best of all, we might have found a house—right near to their’s! How fun. I’ll let you know if it works out.

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