I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer. Not the type that churns out guidebooks full of addresses of hotels and prices of eateries, but one of those who tell fabulous stories of adventures in exotic, far-off lands. I’ve managed to publish exactly one such story so far. Here’s one reason why my travel output is so small – I’m all set for writing, but instead I take part in what’s going on – like keeping Portland weird, and never sit down to write.
Prepared for writing
Each time I head off on a trip I take along all my writing tools. Everything from actual writing instruments like laptop, legal pad, Moleskine, pens and pencils, to Manila envelopes and stamps. Plus a cell phone to keep in touch with clients. And the camera too, now that writing means blogging and blogging means pictures. My backpack weighs a ton.
Unfortunately I’ve still not learned to actually use those tools while on the road. Something always gets in the way, whether it be sand at Seaside,
a wedding reception where my hands are busy shucking 120 oysters,
or simply the lack of internet access when I find a moment to sit down and type. My next tech investment will have to be a wireless hot spot. I really need to eliminate that excuse from my repertoire. Until that happens the laptop is great for listening to story CDs enroute, the legal pad handy for jotting down directions and the Moleskine has been known to hold napkins in place while eating al fresco, my favorite way to dine.
Writing after the trip
So here’s a taste of my after-the-fact travel reportage. And remember, even when you can’t see it, there’s always water in the background.
A couple of blocks from the Willamette River, outside Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnuts, Tom and I did our part to Keep Portland Weird, and I impressed myself by getting the whole sign in on the first try.
Tom had just picked me up from the train station and while downtown he needed to buy a recessed latch for the trap door he’d built to cover the crawlspace access on his latest job. With time to look around at the sights I remembered Voodoo, which I’d heard about long ago on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and always wanted to try.
While Tom shopped at Chown Hardware, an upscale kitchen and bath showroom that many tourists would enjoy putting on their itineraries, I asked the hipster manning the front desk how to get to Voodoo. He immediately assumed I’d never been to Portland and got out a map. I told him I knew the town well, visited a lot and just needed to be pointed in the right direction. He was incredulous. His eyes opened wide and he said, in all seriousness, “You’ve been to Portland and you haven’t been to Voodoo Doughnuts?” A couple walking in the door stopped, their eyes lit up. A few minutes later I heard them planning the same detour as me.
Voodoo is famous as the birthplace of the whole strangely flavored and flamboyantly iced doughnut and cupcake fad, way back in 2003. While there are lots of reasons to regret not being an early adopter, I’m sorta glad I missed out on some of the initial experiments, the Oyster Doughnut and the Nyquil Glazed especially.
I ordered the iconic Bacon Maple Bar and as soon as I bit into it my brain went “Duh! What have we been thinking? All maple bars need to have bacon on them!” Tom chose a big round thing covered with chocolate icing, caramel, Oreos and Butterfingers. We traded bites and his was way too sweet and cloying for my taste (this from someone who swooned over the combo of bacon and maple frosting) I forget the name of his, I think it was Cranky Ole Bastard. Or something weird like that.
Sure enough, Voodoo was worth the trip. Next time I’m in Portland I’m going to Apizza Scholls, the other weird Bourdain recommendation I’ve neglected to visit. In a perfect world I’d take my laptop and my new not spot and post from right there amongst the spinning dough, artisan beers and salivating crowd. They have a pie called Bacon Bianca. Sounds like I’ll be right at home there.