It was a scorcher when Amtrak rolled me into Portland, Oregon on a fine Sunday afternoon. I spent an hour or so gathering various knicks and knacks as I waited for checkin at our new home for the week: we were to be staying with an old Polish woman named Anna, at the address listed above. The neighborhood looked great, we had our own private room and she even told us she’d cook us one meal a day! It sounded like quite the little dream home for a week…
When I arrived and knocked at the door, no one answered, even though I saw someone walking into the house as I was approaching from a few yards down the block. I knocked again, tested the shattered doorbell button, still no answer. Finally, as I began walking around the side of the house, wondering if maybe there was a different way in, a man peeked through the curtains and asked who I was looking for.
“Anna, I rented a room for her for the week.” He cast me a suspicious eye.
“One moment, I vill check,” his motherland Polish accent thick through the glass. The mailbox informed me that his name was Witold, pronounced Vee-tould, which made me happy as a good friend from back in the PGH is named Witold, Witek for short (which sounds like V-tek, quite the happening name, in my opinion). Eventually he came to the front door and opened it, standing 6’something in nothing but a pair of wet shorts and sporting one full sized erection from beneath them.
“Anna is in jacuzzi, she’ll be right out.” He shut the door and I waited for another 15 minutes. Finally, just as I was about to retire to the driveway for an American Spirit, a short, stocky woman with two bad eyes appeared in the doorway.
“Listen, I already rented out room to an Irish,” she said. My head twitched and my thoughts turned from intense fascination about living for a week with these crazy people to sheer, glass shattered anger. She mentioned something about getting a place down the street, a hotel I believe, for $300 / week. It was all I could do not to reach out and knock her other eye out. I have been known to have a case of the temper, the bad kind, but instead I said nothing, simply turned and walked off of the porch. By the time I’d made it from the porch, through the driveway and back to the sidewalk I believe I had screamed a few turrets-style obscenities, but given the fact that I was two days of train riding full of stink, had all of my worldly possessions strapped to my back and now, under a 90 degree Oregon sky, had nowhere to live for the next week, I think I handled it pretty well.
I was pissed at first, with visions of egging this woman’s house or calling immigration on them, mentioning something about Taliban or anthrax or maybe even just spitting on the ground and smoking a cigarette really “toughly.” However, a dear and good friend was sweet enough to come to my rescue, and as the generousness of friends surrounded me, I was completely wiped free of anger and angst, just happy for the rendezvous.
We eventually found a cool little hotel room just across the river from downtown, with an amazing view of the skyline and instant access to buses/close to my friend Web’s house, etc. etc. So all in all, everything really worked out for the better, but I hope no other weary wayward wanderers find themselves so unlucky. We’ve had a great experience renting a room from a woman here, two years ago we rented a spot at a place by the name of the Haven–a small house in a rose-bush, roundabout filled neighborhood called Ladd’s Addition–and it was almost a dream scenario. Portland is an amazing city with so many cool little neighborhoods and plenty of cool people who are willing to rent out rooms, but I guess this has shown us that it might be a good idea to have a backup plan when you’re dealing with individuals, no contracts, etc.
On the other hand, the place we ended up staying, the Inn at the Convention Center, is pretty cheap for being right next to downtown (we got it for $60 / night including a balcony, the sliding glass doors to which didn’t open though they were supposed to, a small refrigerator and a double bed, plus free WiFi). So far so good, we’ve just been walking around, had a barbecue with some friends yesterday and today is a fresh, squelcher of an afternoon already!