Hits, Misses, and a Home Run in Portland

She said…

Once again, we have come to a place where I have lived a previous incarnation. And once again, life has gone on without me! It’s hard for me to grasp that I am the same person who lived in an apartment on NW 21st and daily walked across this teeming jumble of people and traffic to get to my job at an engineering company on SW 1st. Portland, like everything and everyone else, has grown and changed.

Portland has an extensive bike trail system, and our original plan was to ride our bikes around the Riverfront Loop, an 11-mile trail which goes up and down the Willamette River on both sides, rated easy and flat. When we got there, there was so much traffic and so much construction, that we opted to leave the bikes firmly attached to the car. While I would like to believe that I can still do all things, I am learning to be realistic about my capabilities. . .my balance isn’t as good as it should be to ride in heavy traffic situations. So to be safe, we avoid that kind of riding.

After getting away from the crowded downtown, we decided to get a view of the city from afar, so we traveled up Burnside toward Beaverton and visited Pittock Mansion. We decided not to ante up the $10 each for the tour and just spent some time on the beautiful grounds, glad for the spectacular views of Mount Hood floating over the crowded city below.

Next quest was one for Shannon’s genealogical studies. Shannon has a distant cousin, Solomon Emerick, who came west over the Oregon Trail in 1843. He would have been 22 years old and one of the first settlers to make the trip. After establishing himself in the Willamette Valley he returned to Illinois and in 1848 he brought his parents, Christian and Mary (Shannon’s 4th great grandparents) back across the trail. Mary, died in Wyoming. Christian made it to Oregon, but died in 1851. In 1908, the remains of twelve Emerick family members were removed from their family plot to the Pioneer Cemetery in Hillsboro, Oregon. We found the cemetery and found a row of Emericks. Beside them was an unmarked plot big enough for 12 graves, so while there is no proving that we found the original Emerick pioneers, Shannon was able to do more research based on the information we did retrieve. One for the “hits” column!

Besides remembering how much I liked living in this city, our main reason for coming here was to visit my nephew Mark, who moved here 6 years ago. My brother David, Mark’s dad, was killed in an accident in 1991, leaving his wife and four young children. Mark was an infant and doesn’t have any memories of his dad, but it easy to see where he comes from. Mark not only looks and sounds like his dad, but his hands and his expressions are David to a tee.

We left our second day unstructured, planning to pick Mark up at Marigold Coffee Company, where he is the manager of the shop. From there we were going to see what Mark wanted to do, if he could show us his Portland, and then take him out to dinner.

Mark is also training to be a coffee roaster, and he asked us if we would like to see where he was learning this highly specialized trade (no, you don’t just throw some beans in the roaster and flip a switch.) We enthusiastically agreed, and here’s where the day got really interesting.

Mark, on left, with the Coffee People. From the Buckman’s website.

Buckman Coffee Roasters is a shared-facility roastery, where people can rent time to roast their own beans, they can buy beans from Buckman’s and roast them themselves, or they can buy roasted coffee, both custom blends and single origin, from Buckman’s. We showed up unannounced and Mark asked for permission to tour the facility. Not only were we granted the tour, but they had just received a new shipment of beans and the growers, the dealers and the buyers were all gathering there for a cupping, a formal coffee tasting, and we were invited to stay.

As with wine and chocolate, serious coffee connoisseurs have a highly developed palate, and the “cupping rules”, like with wine, involve a lot of sniffing, swirling, slurping and spitting. The process was fascinating, and I just followed Mark around the table and mimicked him. There were four samples of each roasting of each bean in “cupping bowls” around the tables. First pass was shaking and smelling the dry ground beans, then scalding water was added to each bowl and another pass around the tables was made just breaking the surface and smelling again. After four minutes of steeping, the third pass was with spoons, slurping (with optional spitting). By the end I was actually able to discern subtle differences, and detect overtones of smoke and cinnamon in some of the samples.

After lunch at the roasters, we went to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens and just walked and talked and played with the ducks and geese for a while. Portland has a lot of beautiful urban gardens and fountains, and this proved to be no exception.

We had a wonderful day with Mark, and I am so grateful that we were able to see him in his environs and share some of the things he loves about living in Portland.

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