"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Thursday, July 25, 2013

home away from home

Living in Portland for part of the summer is probably the hippest thing I’ve ever done. Since college. (During those days, I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and it was shortly after the 1960’s. Need I say more?)

Portland is all about farmer’s markets, record stores, coffee shops, bans on plastic bags, urban camping, off road footwear, grass fed beef, microbreweries, books, bike lanes, outdoor concerts, piercings, indie movie houses, street fairs, medical marijuana, urban parks, social services, body art and public transportation.

This morning I went for a massage and “soak” (that’s Portland speak for “sitting in a hot tub”) at a wellness center. It was as if I had slipped back in time – to a day long ago when Eddie and I took advantage of the $1.00 hot tub special at Esalen Institute, a “sacred ground” perched in the rocky cliffs along Highway 1 in Big Sur, California. Back in the day, this magical place opened its door to hippies, healers, insomniacs and other curious characters from midnight til sunrise. One could use the tubs and outdoor massage tables as one saw fit. I don’t remember much, but I do recall the sound of the surf crashing below us, the tapestry of stars above us, the sweet aroma of pot and incense and the fact that Eddie and I were quite sure we had discovered heaven (and the greatest deal ever).

My girl-scout-self punctually arrived at the wellness center fully prepared for the pre and post massage soak. (I had carefully folded my bathing suit and was carrying it in my purse). When I checked in, I was told I had arrived on an “all gender” day and was led to an area to disrobe and shower. There were women and men everywhere. Sans clothing.  Lots of tattoos (I puffed up my chest and started to feel particularly proud of mine), tan lines, macramé bracelets and, well, body parts. Everyone was respectful and pretty much kept to themselves. It was mellow and tranquil and lovely, and I felt like I might have the urge to sit out on the terrace at the student union afterward (oh, wait, that was in Madison). I felt a crunchy connection to my fellow meditators and soakers at the wellness center, like maybe they had been there that night at Esalen or maybe they had gone to school in Madison or, at the very least, that we had all thrown kale into our smoothies that morning.

If I had read the literature before heading over there, I would have been better prepared for the spirit of the place. From their website:

We are an all genders and clothing-optional wellness center that offers a safe, non-sexual space to relax and rejuvenate the spirit. We also offer men-only/women-only hours during the week, plus a monthly trans and gender queer night.

I bet you didn’t know that Portland has a unicycle gang, an underwater hockey team, a hand painted rock-n-roll portrait gallery spread throughout 51 rooms of a downtown hotel and a professional for-hire cuddler (30 minutes for $35).

The only thing about Portland that bugs me is its lack of diversity. (I’ve not yet stayed for a gray, rainy winter, so I can’t complain about the weather, which happens to be absolutely glorious during the summer!) If Portland could figure out a way to attract more residents of color (oh, and do something about the traffic, which gives me fits when I’m in my hybrid Zip Car), I say it’d be a darn near perfect place.

(Sound the Tibetan singing bowl, please.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great!! Love Portland and love what you wrote about it. - Susan