Thursday, March 10, 2011

Basking in your warm sun

Towards the Sun, Follow the Sun, Sunshine on my shoulder, we all crave the sun, need the sun, run away to vacation in the sun.  Why then, would I even be considering a move to Portland, the land of gray skies and little sun? No doubt the sun warms our skin, warms our souls, gives us a healthy glow, and nourishes us with necessary Vitamin D.  But my sunny life here in Napa is depleting me of many other nutrients, like laughter, love and the energy to jump out of bed each morning, excited to see what each day will bring. I don't think I am in need of a prescription for Zoloft or Lexapro, nothing that drastic, but it is obvious that I really do need to examine my life, decide what is important, what inspires me and in general, how I want to live the rest of it. I think it was a Cheerios commercial on TV, where the man makes birdhouses and wants to keep his heart healthy so he can continue doing what he loves, and he loves making birdhouses.  What do I love?  Hmm.  My interests change as often as spring turns to summer, or sometimes as quickly as day turns to night.

But what never changes is my love of home life, family, friends, and for me, Napa seems to have a shortage of all of those.  With my family and friends scattered across the country, I'll admit, the number one reason I'm thinking of a move to Portland is because my daughter lives there.  And as corny as it sounds, she is my external and internal sunshine.  I wasn't one of those mothers who had a baby, reared them until the ripe old age of 18, and then kicked them out the door, so that I could be off and running to live the second half of my life on some cruise ship to the Caribbean or some retirement community in Florida.  I still want to be part of her life, and really, I'm not a stalker or a helicopter mom, I just want to attend her performances, take an occasional early morning walk in the park, meet for lunch, have tea at the Tao, once in a while snuggle up together and watch a movie, and lucky me, she wants that too.

Olivia and Bryan - aka Suckerforlights
I've always believed that it is the people that make a place.  I've said it before but maybe I need to hear it again, you can live in paradise, but if you live there all alone, your little paradise can become your own little run down strip mall. To me, Napa is like the great *pretender.  I have lived here for the past 20 years and watched the wine industry take over the valley, completely.  We now have over 400 wineries.  We have some of the countrys' most upscale restaurants and sought after chefs, Thomas Keller and his French Laundry, Iron Chef Morimoto and the new Morimotos on the Riverfront, Richard Reddington of Redd in Yountville, Tyler Florence, Michael Chiarello and Cindy Pawlcyn are just a few others that staked a claim in the Napa stew of celebrity chefs.  From the newer architecture to the popularity of Bocce ball, Napa is a mix of French and Italian wannabes.  It can be a wondrous place if you own a vineyard, a winery, an upscale restaurant or work in an industry that profits from tourism.  Napa is definitely a small town that caters to its visitors and not the local residents.  An upscale Mayberry, all polished and perfected, for all the world to see, an image to uphold.  Food carts are few and hard to find, we have about 4 total and for those 4 I'm sure the permits and licensing were a nightmare to get.  They are located off by the railroad tracks, out of sight.  In Portland they occupy it seems like most every corner, giving the people who live there the opportunity to eat great food at a great price, at perhaps a small bistro or picnic table next to a trash can.  Ah, please, Napa would have to give their eyes an eyewash of antibiotics after witnessing that!  There is a great little book out about the food carts in Portland that my daughter bought me last Christmas,

And yes, in Napa there is the sun, the weather definitely makes life easier.  No ice to scrape from the windshield, no snow to blow out of the driveway, only seasonal rain fall that makes you remember, Yes Virginia, there is a season called winter.

Food carts in Portland - gotta love em

People in Portland seem to be satisfied earning enough money to get by, but truly value their free time much more than a large paycheck and a substantial savings account.  They love to meet up with friends, eat out, drink wine and beer, attend festivals, listen to music, get involved in the community and in general live a kick back, unpretentious lifestyle.

Of course for me Portland has more than great food, it is home to the neighborhood coffee house. Coffee, coffee coffee.  You have the Stumptowns and the Starbucks, but you also have a multitude of home grown coffee houses and roasters.  On our outing to Sellwood last weekend, a neighborhood in the Southeast, we came upon the Blue Kangaroo.  Best mocha I ever had, with Red Square on Belmont coming in a close second.  This has truly become one of my joys in life.  Trying every coffee house I come upon and rating their product and baristas.  And I have met some of the happiest and seemingly content baristas around in Portland.

So far, our favorite and happiest Barista in Portland!

To sum it all up, we can get all the sun and shine we need from that actual bright burning star or we can get it from people, places, things, family and friends.  You might get it from a friendly barista serving a great cup of coffee, a little schnauzer excitedly taking you on a walk, an awesome dinner at a cheap Thai food cart, acknowledging what is important to you, or just plain relaxing, simplifying and enjoying your way through life. Finding whatever it is that lights and warms you up inside, and it might be something as simple as making birdhouses, but once we find it, it can be like a strong dose of pure sunshine.

Little David Bowie waiting patiently outside Blue Kangaroo in Sellwood while we grab a coffee- best mocha ever!

Jackson Browne - The *Pretender
I'm gonna be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
though true love could have been a contender
Are you there? Say a prayer for the pretender.

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