Monday, August 15, 2011

SLEEPLESS IN PORTLAND

As mentioned in my last post, I am taking a breather from romantic comedies. And so when I spontaneously decided I needed to zip off on an American shopping adventure, I consciously bypassed Seattle. Best not to risk re-enacting rom-com movie scenes, hanging out at gorgeous float homes and precious beaches, stalking cute, witty single dads with meddling sons named Jonah.

On to Portland!

But first, of course, I needed to book my accommodations. My friends are into Hotwire and Priceline, bidding on unknown hotels. I’ve tried that and paid dearly for it, not from my wallet but in all the extra time schlepping back and forth from a Holiday Inn Express that was in a very liberally defined “downtown Victoria”. Bargain hunting has never worked for me. No playing games with hotel rooms. I searched for exactly what I wanted. No surprises.

I surfed the internet to find a trendy boutique hotel I’d read about somewhere a year ago. God bless Google. While it seemed like finding a needle in a haystack, I typed in “hip Portland hotels” and The Ace Hotel popped up. Kind of like a chic dorm. Definitely not your run of the mill Hilton or Holiday Inn. I was excited to experience something different. One of the advantages of traveling on alone is there is no one to blame you if the booking turns out to be a bad move.

It was a long drive with many stretches of inexplicable stop and go traffic—no construction, no accidents. I searched the radio dial, half expecting to hear a DJ giving directions for a vehicular flash mob. Simon says go slow. Simon says go even slower.

Once I reached my destination, I pulled up and got my room key (on a dog tag chain which fell apart within three minutes in my care). As I unloaded items from my car, I spotted a young gay man having a drink on the outdoor patio of the bar directly across the street. No doubt about his gayness. His limbs constricted and jerked in the equivalent to a body-length Notice Me hair flick. Later, I left to explore the amazing Powell’s Books and identified other gay patrons on the patio. My, Portland is a gay mecca. Who knew?! Picking up a copy of the free gay rag, my gaydar suspicions were confirmed. My hotel was directly across from a gay bar.

Pure coincidence. I’ve had partners who wanted to base entire trips around gay bars, gay plays, gay coffee hangouts. I always resisted. When I travel, I search for vegetarian restaurants, not gay bars. With the club constituting my view from my hotel room, I wondered if I should pop over. And then the question arose, “Why?” What need did I have to connect with gay Oregonians? I wasn’t looking for a hookup and I’ve never been skilled at mindless chitchat. I decided to turn in early.

Of course, when a bar with an open patio is directly across the street from where you’re staying, sleep is a challenge. As the club got busier, the noise wafted up to my third floor room. My bed vibrated like one of those coin-operated “rides” I think they used to have in motels in Niagara Falls. Sorry, there’s a reason that “luxury” never caught on.

I putzed around my room, flipping through complimentary copies of artsy magazines I’d never heard of before surveying the other extras for hotel guests: eucalyptus body wash, cilantro conditioner and, most telling, ear plugs. While a thoughtful touch, they didn’t help. I spent a fit-filled night, partially suffocating myself with a pillow as I tried in vain to sleep.

At daybreak, I finally found silence but my body had resigned itself to insomnia. My mind wouldn’t relax, a vigilante mentality taking over, just waiting for another noise to prove that any attempt to doze was futile. I gazed groggily at the wall in front of me. Each room at the Ace has a kitschy design. Since I came here to write as well as shop, it was fitting that entire wall was covered by a black and white mural of a boy resting his chin in his hands as he holds a pencil before an open notebook. Well, it seemed like a perfect touch when I’d checked in. However, in the light of the new day, staring blurry-eyed at a giant sized little boy from my bed was mighty creepy.

I needed to get out of my room so I showered, fuelled up on caffeine at the neighboring Stumptown Coffee and wandered the streets. It was just me and dozens of homeless folks. I think my zombie impersonation scared them. Whereas the night before I was regularly asked for money for coffee/transit/dinner, they’d suddenly cross the street as I approached in the early morn. I looked to be the needier case. Excuse me, do you know how to hook me up with a caffeine IV?

I did manage to recover at some point after a few catnaps, some extravagant clothing purchases, a walk through the Pearl District and an invigorating run along the Willamette River. Come nightfall, I thought about the if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em option, but by then a massive sty had formed on my right eye and the club’s apparent glow-stick/pajama party theme was most definitely not for me.

My Portland adventure underscored what I already knew: my forays into the gay nightlife are a thing of the past. The only thing I regret is that I don’t have anyone else to blame for my poor choice in accommodations.

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