I confess. There was a small (fine, big) part of me that was initially using this road trip as a way to run away from the crumbled mess that my life has become. Everything in my life seemed broken and I didn’t know how to fix any part of it, so it just seemed easier to leave it all behind. Not only has my career fallen to pieces, but I’ve also been nursing wounds from misleading and broken promises from “friends.” The latter is commonplace in LA. It’s a city that breeds a certain “bright shiny object” mentality. Many people are BFFs with whomever can get them somewhere. One minute they profess undying loyalty FOREVER to you, but then when it is clear that someone else (aka the new bright shiny object) can actually get them further ahead, that promise of loyalty is conveniently forgotten. It’s these types of broken promises that stab the deepest and leave the most permanent scars on my back. I’ve never been able to wear the necessary armor to protect myself. Nor do I really want to because the hometown Wisconsin girl in me still wants to believe there is an innate goodness in people.
My time in the Pacific Northwest really helped to begin to center me again. Despite the fact that it rained every day but one the entire time I was there, people are genuinely nice, helpful and optimistic.
Seriously, even the freeway rest stops are happy places. My standard routine at the rest stops was to grab a free coffee, snack on a handful of wild blackberries, and then have a short hike with Yoda on the well groomed trails through the pines.
Portland in particular really stole my heart. I’ve never seen so many people on bikes in a city – and they are doing it in the rain! If it rains in Southern California things pretty much shut down. Southern Californians don’t know how to deal with weather because we never have it. Portland was also a dog’s paradise. It seems that everyone and his uncle carries dog treats in their pockets. Yoda was constantly having his fill of everything from smoked salmon, to leftover filet mignon to Milk-Bone dog biscuits.
I had my fill too – of friends old and new. And with that, a bit of travel serendipity came into play. My Monday lunch with Josh, a high school friend whom is now a professor at Portland State, led to a meeting with a headhunter, which led to a meet and greet interview with a cutting edge company that may be hiring in January.
Time was also spent with my friend Ted, with whom I’ve worked on too many movies to count. Ted has figured out the winning formula for survival in the film business: live in Portland and work on location when producing movies. Ted gave me a mini tour of the city, ending with a snack at one of the many food truck pods for which Portland is famous.
We chose Sweet Pea’s Brulee and ordered tiny, melt-in-your-mouth creme brulees. It turns out we were their very first customers. So, not only did I take a picture of them to commemorate the occasion, but they also took a picture of us for the same reason.
Perhaps my favorite part of Portland were my new friends Alison and Thomas, who generously opened up their home to Yoda and me for two nights. Alison and Thomas are lovely, warm, interesting, athletic and grounded. They make me want to move to Portland just to be able to hang out with them all the time.
Yoda and I also spent a couple days in Seattle with my friend Janine, with whom I formed a sisterly connection this past summer while backpacking through Italy. The wet drive from Portland to Seattle was terrifying white knuckle driving. The rain at times was pounding so hard that I couldn’t see the car in front of me. At several points I pulled off at those magnificently friendly rest stops just to collect myself before continuing the drive. The mentally exhausting drive was worth it because the next day we were blessed with one of those few and far between crystal clear Seattle autumn days. We had sparkling views of snow capped Mount Rainer, the volcanic Cascade range, and the Olympic mountain range.
After a photo opp at the original Starbucks (which opened its doors in 1971), we wandered around Pike Place Market, the nation’s oldest farmers market. Pike Place offers everything from fresh seafood (make sure you see the throwing of the fish at Pike Place Fish), to produce and cheese to fine arts and crafts.
A bit of a fish and chips junkie, I squealed with delight when I discovered Spud Fish and Chips, which offers freshly caught fish with fast food service and prices. Yum.
Now that I’ve left the Pacific Northwest to continue on my road trip, I’m beginning to realize I’m no longer running away from my life. More often than not I’m hit with a powerful feeling that I’m running towards something. I’m not sure what that something is, but it’s whispering my name and I’m beginning to listen.