Today was breakfast in Seattle, a visit to Mt St Helens Interpretive Centre and a mooch around Portland. 

Seattle: we ran along the Port front park (meaning, Claire ran and I bobbed along in her wake). I’ve found that running is a nice way to see new places from a different perspective and I think we picked a good city to start that off in here. This is the map, just in case you’re interested 

In 2000, I did the route we have planned more or less. I have almost no memory of the detail of that trip. But I know we went to Mt St Helens Interpretive Centre. We were both genuinely astonished at the accounts of how the mountain puffed, then bulged, then blew in 1980. At least as astonishing as the photos and accounts were the contemporaneous front pages of the local papers. The big stories that weren’t MSH were the problems Carter had running a campaign whilst other crises overwhelmed him (the failed Iran hostage rescue was months away), Tito’s funeral (immortalised in “All Out Superpower Confrontation” by NTNOCN (you can see that here ) and the, frankly astonishing, reports of Washington State’s plans to desegregate their schools. In 1980.


Anyway: we pressed on to Portland, a city I remembered very fondly because, the first night Finbar and I were there in 2000, a bartender offered to take us around the city on his day off the next day. And that he did: with his girlfriend he drove us all over and we ended in an amazing bar with some bands playing. I’d like to think they were future members of the Decemberists, but probably not. It was an incredibly kind thing to do and the kind of thing that makes you love a city. 

Portland is lovely. You might’ve been here. It’s full of stuff and not well-explored by people we know. It’s culturally young and a bit hipster. We have a full day tomorrow to explore and I think it won’t be enough. But, and here’s the turn, the homelessness problem in this city is unbelievably visible. 
Not that it’s necessarily worse than in other cities. But it’s just so visible. Here’s an article I found.

Clearly it’s a complex problem. And also, the places that truly-lost people are drawn to are likely to be the metropolitan centres that offer both the infrastructure to help and the presence of enough liberal people to help. 

But, jeez, it’s astonishing to see, in such density, in a city that seems to be going about its business. 

It’s like a leafy London. 

Postscript: we walked the CBD for a couple of hours and it rained. The centre of Portland seemed oddly quiet for a weekday in a major city. Maybe there’s something unusual about this place that we aren’t seeing. If you’re in town, do check out Pizza Schmizza.  They had lovely food, a good beer menu, all the weird sports, and lovely staff to boot. 

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