The Dream (of the 90's) is Alive in Portland(ia)
By: Kendi Wolever
I recently visited Portland, Oregon, which to me might be the most romantic place in the world. Forget Italy or France, just give me the Pacific Northwest. The mountains, the trees, the water - everything you need is there to create a picturesque memory. However, I didn’t visit for the romantic opportunities that could lie ahead. I mostly went for the food. Portland has phenomenal food. Like, really phenomenal food.
Anyway, back on track. My friends and I were exploring the neighborhoods of this weird city and stumbled upon Alberta Street. It was lined with cool and eclectic shops ranging from vintage clothing stores to cozy coffee houses. I never imagined that there would be a city that could support a business dedicated solely to tea and kombucha, but sure enough, in Portland there was. We entered a storefront graced with a hanging sign that read “Townshend Tea Company.” It was a brightly lit store with comfy chairs and a strong aroma of every tea you could think of. My friends and I waited in line, our heads buried in menus filled with pages and pages of tea and kombucha choices, and when it was finally my turn to order, I looked up and locked gaze with the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. The guy working behind the register looked like he was born to work at a kombucha shop in Portland, if you know what I mean. He had dark red hair, short on the sides and long on top. He had piercings in all of the appropriate places and wore grandpa pants in a way that only he could make look attractive. He had a gorgeous smile and complimented me on my weird Head and the Heart tattoo - which isn’t a common experience for me back in Oklahoma. We had a moment, I thought. You know, one of those moments where you feel like everything that’s happened in your life is what led up to these two seconds of eye contact and word exchanging. Ok, I’m being a little dramatic, but you know what I’m talking about! He was perfect in the way that a dude from Portland could be perfect. He was hot, eclectic, mysterious with an edge, and he liked my tattoos.
My friends and I sat in the cafe with our drinks, snickering like school girls about my new little crush created only moments ago. We bantered back and forth about whether or not I should leave kombucha boy my number, and even though I knew I had absolutely nothing to lose, my guts couldn’t take it. My girls teased me relentlessly about my inability to make a move, and our daydreaming over ridiculous possible scenarios had me in tears from so much laughter. So I gave myself a little break. I stood up and headed to the restroom in hopes of gathering my wits and to try to work up some courage. I emerged from the restroom exclaiming to my friends that I must have found my spiritual place, because it was there, in that restroom, that I came up with my best writing material of all time.
Passionately and unashamed, I recited to my friends:
“Your hair is red.
Your eyes are blue.
I think I might die
If I don’t know you.”
Every jaw dropped with approval. I quickly scribbled my little poem down on a piece of brown paper we had torn away from one of our shopping bags. I left my name and number in parenthesis at the bottom. But still, my guts couldn’t keep up with my wit and charm. After what seemed like a decade of working up the courage to give this man my poem, my friend snatched it from my hand and placed it in the tip jar while he wasn’t looking.
I was slightly mortified but also exhilarated as we hurried out of the shop before anyone could find my poem. We laughed all the way down Alberta Street, expecting nothing to come from this other than to give this kombucha man a good stroke of the ego. But after about an hour more of shopping, I received a text message from a number I didn’t recognize. It read:
“My hair is red
My eyes are blue.
Your words are sweet,
But who are you?
(My name is Benjamin)”
I froze in shock because 1) I had no expectations of receiving a text in the first place and 2) How is there an actual person in existence who would respond to my poem in poem form? I guess in hindsight it seems like the obvious thing to do but from my past experience, you’re lucky these days to get a simple “sup?” from a Dude Bro. But this felt like a movie, and we were the ones writing the script. My friends and I decided it was only fitting to continue forward only in poem form, and so the conversation went like this.
“You may recall I have a tattoo,
One of two faces lookin‘ at you.
Your Kombucha gave my day a good start,
Perhaps you’ll remember the Head and The Heart.”
“Of course I do remember you!
This is truth, I swear it’s true:
I’m moving away in a few days
Toward Hawaii and the waves.
But tonight I’m dancing with some friends.
The Goodfoot Funk and Soul is where it begins.”
“Funny you say that, for I’m heading to the beach.
I’m not a great dancer, but easy to teach.
As you told the truth, so I must too.
It’s my last night in town, but I’d hate to miss you.”
This just could not be real, we thought. My friends and I spent the rest of the day exploring and eating, spending time at the beach, and all day long we debated on whether or not I should meet this stranger for a night of dancing. I looked up the club online to gauge its sketchiness, which is honestly a really hard thing to do in a place like Portland where grunge and sketch is the absolute norm. But I told myself that despite my nerves, I had to do it. I could not go back to Oklahoma without doing this. It was too good of a story, too good of a potential chapter in my future book. My friends and I were worn out and tired with a big day of traveling ahead of us. We were covered in sand and were still wearing our swimsuits underneath our clothes, but after some ‘za and a few brews, we decided we had to check it out. I had to meet up with this man. Our trusty chauffeurs drove us to the Goodfoot while I impressively redid my makeup in the pitch black back seat. When we arrived, we weren’t sure what to expect to see walking in. We opened the doors and entered a dark hallway only slightly glowing with a red light from another room. The hallway reminded me of the one that Stephanie Meyers describes in one of her Twilight books when the tourists are lined up in an underground hallway, unaware that they’re about to be eaten by vampires. But instead of having my neck bit into by a pair of fangs, I entered the next room and was greeted by the booming sound of 40s and 50s sockhop music.
We were surrounded by people who were not grinding each other’s pelvic areas, but rather were dancing in twirls, spins and shakes as if they were straight our of the movie Grease. Our eyes lit up like kids on Christmas morning because this was a whole new world that us midwestern cuties had yet to experience. It felt like a secret underground club that we were given a special ticket to. Our tired bodies were all of the sudden rejuvenated by the energy in the room and, after a few shots of gin for courage’s sake, we made our way to the edge of the dance floor to find my red headed hippy. After searching the room full of Portlandiers, I spotted Benjamin way out in the middle of the dance floor, dancing as if he does this every weekend. I suddenly was overwhelmed with nervousness and wanted to back out. I wanted to run away because even though I was sure that no one in that club felt like they knew what they were doing, I definitely knew the least. I was suddenly hyper aware of my soberness, my midwesterness, and my former homeschoolness and remembered that the only dance move I know in a sober state at best is how to fingersnap. But fingersnap I did. I took a deep breath, threw my shoulders back, and marched towards the middle of the dance floor towards Benjamin and his groovy moves. When I reached him, we locked eyes for the second time, he flashed that handsome smile and told me thanks for being so straightforward. He said it in such a genuine tone and it reassured me that I had made the right decision.
We danced and talked as the volume of the music would allow us to. He told me that this night was a goodbye party for him and that he would be working for a while in Washington before he was to move to Hawaii to work on a fruit farm. How Portland of him, I thought. We danced more than we talked but I decided that he was one of the most interesting people I’d ever met and that I also would probably never see him again. I accepted this fact regardless of my natural longing for every single human connection and I said my goodbyes. I thanked him for playing along, making my trip so memorable, and then I left with my friends. I haven’t spoken to Benjamin since. I don’t know his last name or if he’s still in Hawaii. But what I do know is that there’s someone out there who is willing to take risks. I maybe only knew him for a day, but the encounter has changed my life for the better. Because of two individuals being willing to do participate in something ridiculous, I ended up having one of the most fun, exciting, and exhilarating nights of my life. I got to know what an adventure feels like with my best friends, and I created an experience for myself worth writing about. If you’re ever wondering if you should go do that thing, in my opinion, the answer is yes. Emphatically, yes. Mary Schmich said “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I think this is a good rule to live by because you never know if the thing that scares you will turn out to be the very thing that empowers you. Do that thing.