Monday, July 12, 2010

Portland, Oregon: Emily Johnson (2000) and Gabe Blackwell (1996)

We’re now leaving Portland after a busy two days of constant activity with a bevy of ESA alumni. I think the west coast is going to be hectic. Here we go…Emily Johnson picked us up from Kim Powers Geist’s house in the southeast quadrant. Emily’s been really our first veritable tour guide, sticking with us for a good 10 hours or so. We’re into picking up the habits of the natives so we asked Emily to take us to a vegetarian spot for lunch, although we did find out that Emily has forgone her vegetarianism. These days, she needs lots of protein to keep up with her career which includes personal training and yoga instructing. She did also let us know that there is such a thing as too much biking from her personal experience. Earlier in the year she had the problem of the inside of her knees having more muscle than the outside. Apparently this is a painful affliction.

After lunch we walked over to the Costello’s, the café where we found Gabe Blackwell at work. Although we’re some years younger, Gabe was one of those people who both Isabelle and I had known about, either from some reputation that he had that we’ve forgotten or the fact that he’s a fellow New Iberian. Gabe looks different from my hazy memory and I think it has to do with his hair. I remember it being black and him having lots of stubble but instead he’s clean shaven, clean cut, and almost a dirty blond. And he definitely doesn’t have a New Iberia accent. As we all know, the job market’s a bummer these days, so he’s been having a tough time finding a collegiate creative writing teaching position. So he works on his writing. He told us that he finished a novel set in Los Angeles in the 1930s and one of the characters is Raymond Chandler. Another is an actor that had an extremely large head and kept getting cast as a villain. Dad said he knew how the poor guy felt (hat size of dad: 8 ¼ and I’m not lying). Gabe has published several short stories and has a website that can be found by googling his name. Gabe got busy so we left, went to the smaller Powell’s bookstore on Hawthorne, and spent some time there waiting out the afternoon heat before we attacked the ominously named Mt. Tibor.

Emily had not informed us that as a mountain, in the animal world, Tibor would be a kitten that could barely open its eyes. Then there was belly dancing, Shakespeare, cocktails at Venerable Quandary, and some ridiculously good black cod at the socially conscious sushi restaurant, Bamboo. There, Emily told us an awesome story about how she spent 35 days walking on a pilgrimage from the Pyrenees in France to a shrine on the coast of Spain called something de Compostela.

That night, we went to bed thinking about how we were going to spend eight hours on the bus driving to and from coast of Oregon to hang out with Neil Prejean, and his wife and child on a cold beach.

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