"Of course," he said, "that's what life is about, picking up the ideas from your friends that you like the best."
But there is little coincidence about their preference for the freshness of home-made food and beer. "I'm learning to make soap," Hans said.
Homemade soap is a signature of my grandmother's, who with her husband made buffalo fat soap, and fresh bread, bee-hive honey, home-brewed everything, in a cabin in the woods, surrounded by a cornfield.
Portland resident's have a strong penchant for reading - all you have to do to know this is walk through a famous Powell's Book Store. In Portland, city-life quality is out in the open; you don't have to look hard to find magnificent food; fish, lox, breads and cheeses, salads, oriental restaurants, steakhouses, and that beer!
We headed for a small underground bar which had a name to the effect of "The Musty Squirrel." The band played country and bluegrass. They were called 'Hank Plank and the 2x4's' and would speak with my brother between sets. Hank Plank was part of a growing penchant for Appalachian-style bluegrass in Portland.
In the morning, we walked along a jungly trail in Forest Park, and to his garden-plot, where he was learning to grow everything he needed to keep away from the grocery store.
"Eat this," he said.
"Tastes like lettuce, what it is?"
"St. John's Wort."
"What, you think I need this?"
"It's good for you."
We took to the road and headed east, along the Columbia River valley. In the sunshine, it is all majesty; the sandy-banked rivers, Hood gaping white in the distance, and towers of pine matting the steep mountains and foothills to the south.
We passed a number of vans and trucks, carrying canoes and fishing poles and climbing gear strapped to yet another Yakima rack. I glanced inside the windows of passing vehicles and said, "You know, down in Southern California, people refer to San Franciscans and the Portland set as Earth-monkeys and granolas. I'm looking at these people and I don't know what they are talking about." Hans shrugged. I said,
"I don't like that word, 'Outdoorsy' I don't know anybody who is actually an 'outdoors' person like it rules or dominates their life. Have you ever noticed that people who do outdoors sports or spend time hiking or walking or gardening are also the finest city people? They always seem to be the same ones who know where the music is, and the restaurants." "Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't talk to people who use the word 'Outdoorsy,' he said.
Portland is city and it is country. It is intelligence, restrained class, genuineness. It is rare, and for that I understand wholeheartedly the nature of the word 'Cascadia.' The sentiments about granolas and earth-monkeys sound out of place and laughable. We drove for some time, and then into the Eagle Creek Salmon Hatchery, where we took to the oft-traveled Eagle Creek trail. The trail winds its way up the foothills of Mount Hood, and settles upward along a deep gorge cut by the river.
The water here is blue from Hood minerals; blue like the blue of the Caribbean, and broken by rocks and logs and islands of trees. We walked along stands of Cedar and pine, and rows of Spanish moss and ferns; dripping falls, and along steep and narrow foot-paths that required holding a metal cable. We had come for Metlako Falls, a short distance from the main trail, but rarely visited.
The best view required a slippery crawl through a small wood. Hans the whole time saying, "this is Pacific Dogwood, the Indians used this for bows," or, "see the bark on the red cedar, this is used for baskets and canoes." The view of Metlako was dizzying; I always had an unusual fear of heights and the gorge below dropped straight for several hundred feet: but we crouched for several minutes holding onto trees or branches; the falls poured from above us and into a blue, blue pool which was surrounded by lime mosses and ferns.
Later and up the trail, we found a smaller falls in the shadow of trees, and so we took to it; jumping from mossy rock to log to mossy rock. This was life, I thought: a backpack, a bottle of water and the sun warming the moss between my toes. Hans was still naming plants, explaining that it was an effort, but that one day the connections between plant families would make it much easier.
From here it was to Hood River, for dinner, and then to Northeast Portland, a neighborhood which had grown hip when the McMenamin brothers decided to convert an old abandoned high-school into a set of giant art-deco bars. Here the famous bluegrass band Jack Straw was noodling old riffs into a single-mike: mandolins, guitars, upright-basses and fiddles. This is where we met up with Darin, who had befriended my older brother 15 years ago, and who now employed my younger brother as a Java architect. Darin was like a Huell Howser for Oregon, and it was obvious by the conversation that he had some impact on both of my brothers' familiarity with Oregon: Darin had spent time building fly rods, and spent weekends climbing and then snowboarding the peaks of Oregon and Washington. When the rivers are high, he hangs up the ice-ax and spike-shoes for a white-water kayak.