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2001-07-21 - 2:15 p.m.

Dear Rob and John,

So here I am again, at a cybercafe in Haight Ashbury, while Gary's at Amoeba Records (he only made it to the L's in the used cd section last time, and didn't even glance at the electronica section, so he's bound to be there for a while). I wanted to update earlier, but cybercafes are few and far between in the Redwood National Forest, and I didn't seem to stumble upon one in Portland.

So where to begin? Do I start at the beginning, or at the end? This all seems to be more for me than for you, despite the salutation at the beginning of this entry. It's hard now to even remember what I did last week. But here are a few highlights.

I saw so many pop bands at the Pop Fest that I now want to be in one, even if I only play tamborine. I saw many good bands, and some mediocre ones, and it turned out to be an endurance test more than anything else; after sightseeing all day, standing in a club for four to five hours was almost more than we could bear. And then there was the drive to Palo Alto at two o'clock in the morning. But I'm still glad we went, if only because it meant I could ogle the Lucksmiths every night, watching them as they watched the bands. But Bennett were good, and Ciao Bella, and the Fairways, and Tullycraft. The Aislers Set were amazing.

During the rest of the time in the city, we also managed to see the Musee Mechanique (a great museum full of coin operated machines), the Camera Obscura, a crowded and hip Bastille Day celebration, get lost in the Mission District, walk through Noe Valley, and drive down the second curviest street in the city, located near the club in Potrero Hill.

On Monday morning, we packed up and took off for Sonoma. My grandfather's first cousin Renee lives there, and we met her for lunch. I'd never met her before, but she was a riot; I've never seen anyone grab a bill off a table faster than me before. She graduated from Berkeley when she was 19, but couldn't find a job as a criminologist, so she joined the Navy instead. Later, she went to law school; years later, she was the first female professor hired at her law school. She's retired now, and spends her time travelling; she'd just gotten back from Germany, and was planning a trip to Cuba in the fall.

After lunch, we drove through Sonoma, making the requisite stop at a winery, before hitting Highway 1 along the coast. The drive was breathtaking, and beautiful, with the coast on one side and mountains on the other. Gary likes to drive fast, and took particular delight in speeding up along the winding roads, while I clutched the door handle, and wondered who would be called when our bodies were found.

We made it to Arcata by nightfall, a small college town. Apparently, the only prerequisite to living in Arcata is that you be a hippie (and really, everyone we saw was a hippie - everyone). I'd found a coupon booklet for hotels at some rest stop, so we stayed at a hotel right on the town square for only $50. Gary wasn't impressed until we found out the rate was $115/night. And it was the last room in the hotel, and a smoking one at that.

The next day, we drove into Redwood State Park, and took a one mile hike smack dab in the middle of the redwoods. And what can I say, really? I mean, they're the redwoods. They're amazing. That one mile walk was crammed with so much beauty, that it was silly, after a while, to point your fingers, and say, hey, look over there, at that amazing redwood, when you were surrounded, constantly, by amazing redwoods. I wanted to see bear and elk. We didn't see bear or elk. But we were able to drive through another park, where the redwoods just hung over the road, like they were smiling foolishly at us mere mortals, attempting to bring civilization into all this wildness. And we felt foolish for driving 50 mph through all this wilderness. But we did, because there was Portland to get to. Near the Oregon border, we cut over to Highway 5 (because no matter how long we drove, we just felt we weren't getting anywhere near Portland), down a winding mountainous road (we had to stop for half an hour, because they were clearing rocks from the road; a little truck came by and passed out bottles of water to all the stopped motorists), to the main highway, which wasn't that bad, because there were hills all around. We were in Portland by nightfall, and found a hotel in the Hollywood district.

Portland seemed oddly familiar, like all the best bits of Austin, Atlanta, and Athens were thrown together. We weren't there for long; we spent the morning and early afternoon in the Hawthorne District (and ate at Cup and Saucer - thanks, Rob), and then went over to Powell's, which was very impressive, even though they didn't have the guide to Ulysses I was looking for. Gary went out to the car for a minute, and came running back into the store, telling me to go outside and look around the corner. I went, and there they were: the Lucksmiths, on bicycles. I felt like I was stalking them. I looked down at my t-shirt, bright orange, emblazoned with the words, "The Lucksmiths." I zipped up my sweatshirt, stared at them for a while, and went back inside. Had I been a braver person, I would have walked right up to them, pointed to my t-shirt, pointed to them, and asked what were the odds of this happening, really. I mean, I could see it happening in Australia, maybe all the time. But Portland, Oregon? That evening, we went to the Baghdad Theatre (huge old theatre from the 1930's) to see "The Mummy Returns." Gary wasn't feeling well (or so he said, I think he was just looking for an excuse to leave Portland early), so I dropped him off at the hotel, and went to the Red and Black Cafe to see Timonium (drony and boring), Brittle Stars (three geeky boys and one cute girl, not bad), and I am the World Trade Center (so good I bought the cd, and I never do that). I wanted to stay another day in Portland, and Gary wanted to leave that next morning, so we compromised, I guess. We got up early, and Gary dropped me off at Powell's so I could do their downtown walking tour of Portland. Which I did, even though I had to stop at practically every corner to look at the map and make sure I was going the right way. But I just couldn't leave Portland without seeing some of the city. It was nice. I liked what I saw. It felt like a real city, and Austin never feels like that for me. I met Gary at Powell's, where I bought a few more postcards (one of Carson McCullers, a Georgia writer, and it turned out the clerk who sold it to me was from Athens, Georgia, so we talked about that, and about living in Portland, and Austin, and UGA, and it was all very nice), and then we drove back to SF, which felt like it took forever, but only because Gary wouldn't let me drive, and it's boring being a passenger. So then we played alphabet games (first with musicians, then with dead celebrities, and then anyone associated with the movies), and that kept me occupied til we reached Palo Alto.

I was happy to be back, but now I'm finding that it's tiring being on vacation. I'm ready for some normalcy for a while, even if I have to do it in 100 degree heat. But it's been a good trip, and Gary and I have even gotten along most of the time. I think we're easier to take out of context. I'll be back before you know it, and we'll email the whole workday long.


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