NOTE: this post was written several weeks ago, but because the wi-fi at the hotel was so weak, it didn’t leave my tablet and appear here.

Portland, Oregon. 10.28 a.m. Toronto time. I haven’t changed the times on my tablet because there’s no point, and my watch still reads EST because the instructions for changing the digital buttons are at home. I’m going to go to the drug store and buy a cheap analog one, I think. Hub left early for a breakfast meeting and I have the day to myself.

We’re lodging at The Nines, a boutique hotel created from a retrofit project of the top nine floors of a Macys department store. There are still five floors of Macy’s underneath the hotel. The exterior has been maintained in the Art Deco style (I think). The retail levels remind me of the Bay store on Queen Street in downtown Toronto, but with more open display areas. The sales people are excruciatingly friendly – every single one greeted me as as I wandered through the five floors. It got to the point where I stopped making eye contact because talking to everyone as slowing me down. Browsing as a conversational sport – interesting. And they were genuine, too – not a fake ‘hihowareyew’. I think the shock came from the contrast between how service oriented they are here compared to the usual absence or general surliness at home. And the folks here get paid less, too. What I found really interesting here and in places like Nordstroms which I thought was a high-end store, was that so many of the goods come from Asia – primarily Vietnam. Having been to Thailand, where a lot of this stuff is also sold, I know what the markups are in the US – steep.

I love Portland. It is a gorgeous city.

I have walked for hours and hours every day with my fraying street map tightly in hand along with the lists I prepared before we left home (love Evernote) and suggestions from the hotel concierge. I have been to yarn stores, fabric stores, a funky shoe store, Powell’s World of Books (I wanna live there), Nordstroms. This is such a walkable city. Clean, clean, clean. Even the homeless people – of which there are many – seem upscale, if I can use that description. The only person to stop and talk to me when I was on a corner staring at my map, was a dapper homeless guy. Perhaps because it hardly snows here, ‘living rough isn’t as harsh as in Toronto. But there is quite a large community of folks tucked in corners with their buddies, sitting on sleeping bags with their dogs. Saw a sign on the side of a building – No moshing or rowdy behavior or you will be moved along.