Playing Catch-up

Hello, friends! My time has been being devoured by both finals and work over the last few weeks, as you could probably tell by my late (or even absent) posts. I’m happy to finally report though that finals are now over, so my work schedule will resume to a simple 9-5! I’m very excited to slowly start getting my weekends and weeknights back, but with that excitement comes cleanup.

As I stated before, my job recently lost a full time employee, and I’ve had to fill in the gap as best I could, even while going to school (and, of course, finals). So aside from all the extra stuff I’d like to be doing, the shop just needs to be straightened up and organized. Scrap material has been piling up in the corner for weeks, and my partner left a ton of stuff in disarray! (Or at least, not to the nigh-obsessive level of organization that I would like to keep it at.) I went in to work for an extra 6 hours yesterday just to clean and I still have what I would predict to be another 4 hours of work. (It’s not as though I’m simply sweeping up wads of paper, after all. These scrap pieces are still 4′ x 8′ sheets of material.)

If I could get the shop in tip-top shape, finish all of the extra stuff I’d like to do, I would estimate it would need about another 12 hours in total, though a lot of that would just be normal maintenance like mopping the floors, which should be getting done more often than it is.

That leaves me to well, my actual room. I like to think I’m an organized person, but there seems to be a certain point in every semester where I just can’t be bothered. I get home late with various loose papers in my hand, and I just put it down on my desk sitting atop the rest of my various papers and then don’t bother to look through it ever again. I’m starting to seriously run out of desk space because of it, but the amount of time I’ve been able to spend just relaxing at home is so sparse as it is, then when I am here I’d rather just watch YouTube videos and play Magic than do more work. Obviously that’s a self-perpetuating cycle, but I’ll get to it soon. Along those same lines is the fact that I’ve been contemplating doing a deep cleaning of my room (yay purging!), but if I did that it would take all day, and the last time I had a full day to myself was probably January. As much as I want to, I’m not sure I can spare that kind of time.

As far as I’m concerned, summer can’t really start until both the shop at work and my room are completely clean and primed for living in. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do that.

I’m coming for you, summer. I have games I want to play and books I want to read.

Rambling — The Lack of Long-term Goals

I was talking to a friend the other day (a game developer who’s been working closely in the industry for a few years), and I told him that if I had had my way, my ideal career would be writing up the storylines to video games. My thought was that I could be the lead writer for an indie company, because that avenue has been growing more and more prevalent over the past decade. It wasn’t his intention, but he said something that was really disheartening, which was the fact that the project that he’s currently working on has over forty developers and zero of them are just “writers”.

Now, the thing is, I’m not sure how well his situation translates to my ambitions, because the project that he is on is unannounced, and therefore he can’t tell me about it. It sounds to me like the thing that he’s working on is very mechanic-driven, with little to no narrative. (I’m struggling to avoid using the term ‘game’ here, even if that is almost assuredly what he is doing). You don’t need a narrative for a game like Chess, after all, and for all I know he’s just making Super Chess.

I don’t like facing the fact that he’s probably right—there’s very few careers for a writer in the video game industry, meaning they will be hard to get and more than likely, none of them would be exclusively writing. (I love brainstorming, but there’s no way in hell anyone would pay me to sit in an office 40 hours a week to brainstorm with people and string story threads together.) But the problem with that is that I have no other marketable skills for that industry.

The vast majority of the time I do a pretty good job at not worrying about the future and just live in the present. Building towards and preparing for my life in two years is all well and good, but looking much further than that doesn’t tend to yield very accurate results.

What concerns me here is that I have no real passions. I’m sure that’s not uncommon with a lot of people my age, and so I should count myself lucky that I tend to be competent at most everything I pick up, but what I don’t want to do is be sitting in the same spot 10 years from now wondering when I can start calling myself an adult.

It’s stupid, I know. I’m already an adult and my life started decades ago. Some people live their whole life waiting for it to start, but if nothing motivates me into kicking myself into gear, what is there to do?

I used to think I’d be a published author by now, well into the first few novels of a fantasy series, but as it turns out I get bored with long-form writing and burn myself out. I have this irrational (if commonplace) fear that every aspiration I turn to will yield the same results.

They say not to make your hobby your day job, but my only hobby is D&D, and I already consider it a load of work. Ho-hum. Rambling over.

Me — How to Find Your Energy

I had a really heavy workload last semester of school, as you might have guessed by my unprecedented absence from this blog. I was working a lot, directing a play I wrote, and doing what I would simply describe as a mini dissertation for one of my classes.

Towards finals, I was starting to get really stressed. I would get home from work or class, and based on the schedule I outlined for myself, I would often have a single two hour chunk of free time to get work done before it was due in the morning. Problem was, I would get home with no energy to do any of that; the only thing I’d want to do is sleep.

This problem was surprisingly and miraculously solved when I watched a video from one of my favorite “public” figures: Day9. He’s a streamer (known for Starcraft) that I’ve talked about a while back, an old post of which I did not re-read, so browse at your discretion. He has a very casual and sociable persona, and he’s one of the people I admire most because of that.

That video was a snippet of one of his streams; just a conversation where he’s talking about this very thing: How do you structure your life in a way that allows you to get the work done with the time that you have? You can watch the video with that link, it’s about 9 minutes long (he does occasionally curse, though). But I’ll also just talk about it in my own words.

The solution is actually alarmingly simple. You can start tomorrow, in fact, and you don’t need to prepare. You’re not going to like what I have to say, but let me tell you, all it takes is the discipline to commit to your own promises and the ability to restructure your day to day.

All you gotta do is wake up early and do all the extra stuff then. If you’re trying to learn a language, write an essay, whatever doesn’t matter, don’t set yourself up for failure by pretending today will be different. It won’t. You’re going to get home from work exhausted like always and then you’ll hate yourself for looking at Instagram or Reddit for two hours after you get home.

But let’s say you have work at 9. Here’s what you do: You get up at 5am. Yup. 5. You cry a little inside, maybe take 20-30 minutes to get up and you curse me for convincing you to do this, but then you get up and get ready for your day. By 6am you’ve showered and eaten, you’d be ready to walk out the door now if you had to. But now you have 3 hours to just do stuff. The house is quiet, nothing going on, you’ve got the whole day ahead of you, and now that you’ve woken up you’ve got the energy to work.

That’s when you write that essay, or go to the gym, whatever you want to be doing more. You devote some time in the early morning, and by the time you get home after work, you’ve already done the stuff you want to, so now you won’t hate yourself for wasting the rest of your night. Maybe you’ll go to bed a few hours early, but who cares? You’ve already done the things you need to. Plus, if you go to bed early, it’ll make getting up earlier that much easier.

I tried this in the middle of a work and school week, throwing caution to the wind, and it changed the way I did my day-to-day. I’d get home with so much more energy because I wasn’t dreading the work I’d still have to do after work. And because I got up at 5am every week day, sleeping in on weekends meant getting up at 7-8am. I felt like every day suddenly and magically had 3 extra hours.

So, that’s it. Watch that video if you’re not convinced. Give it a shot. Trust me, I know waking up that early is awful. But if you can do it, you’ll feel better, and every day after that will be easier and easier. Especially if you’re a morning person like me, sleeping in until even just 10-11am feels terrible because there’s no morning left.

I wish you the best of luck, and as a farewell note, I highly recommend doing things that wake you up immediately. Shower and eat right after you get out of bed because there is no being tired after that. If you jump out of bed and immediately start working on an essay, you’ll just fall back asleep and you’ll hate me all the more.

Me — Holiday Free Time

Time budgeting is a very important aspect of my life. What I do with my day and setting a course for how to tackle it is vital because if I don’t get anything done, it affects my mood, and if I let that happen too much, it starts to really spiral out of control.

In between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I got so busy that I would be going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 5am to get stuff done. To be honest, and to my surprise, it was fantastic. I would get up early to finish homework that was due that day, go to class, then perhaps we would have a performance that night for my play, and then go to bed to wake up for the next day. On nights we didn’t have productions, I’d work on my final projects. Every couple of hours I had where I was comfortable enough to relax and play video games was a treasure.

But then, the production closed, and I got all my finals finished. I haven’t had a whole lot of hours at work lately, either, so suddenly I have a full week straight of nothing but free time. Then two weeks, then, three, and, well you get the picture. It didn’t help that I got sick on Christmas Eve and I’m still feeling the repercussions as I write this.

Let me tell you, the free time has sucked. I’ve hated almost every minute that I’ve spent to myself. I’ve tried writing, but I admittedly haven’t gotten a whole lot of that done. That part, I honestly can’t explain. Two months ago I would have been ecstatic to have all this free time. I was trying to get through a book, prep for a D&D campaign, and I’ve had a story rattling around in my head since July. Now that I have the time to do it, I can only shrug and thing “Sorry, not today”.

This wouldn’t be so bad if I at least had something fulfilling to do with my free time, but I don’t even have games I really want to play. With all the stuff that’s been going on at Blizzard my enthusiasm to play Heroes of the Storm has been shot. I recently bought a Switch but Super Smash Bros. isn’t the sort of game you could play for several hours at a time, and besides that, I don’t have anything I want to be watching while doing either of those things. Being caught up on Critical Role while the show is on a holiday break sucks!

For somebody that finds fulfillment in productivity, well, I’ve started to feel pretty terrible lately. That’s probably part of the reason why it’s taking so long to shrug off this sickness.

It’s not all bad, though. Classes start up Monday, which I’m very excited for. I did get an email saying that the schedules were moved around, and they put two of my classes in the same time slot, so I’m going to have to figure that out, but I’m not terribly worried.

I just need to start classes and getting more hours at work, because I’m dying here. I want to feel good about getting up at 5 instead of staying in bed because I don’t have anything to do.

Me — Saving a Hummingbird

I like to tell people that I’m not a nice person. I don’t believe in altruism at all, in fact. Altruism would imply that somebody would perform an action that provides no benefit at all to the self, but this simply does not happen, because even at the inconvenience of the supposed “selfless” person, the act of helping raises one’s own self-esteem.

The funny thing is, I think being nice is just a convenient way of being selfish. Often, when I do a nice thing for somebody it’s not because I actually care, but because I will internally be able to tell myself that I’m a good person. I often look at situations and think “How can I get the most out of it?” and this often takes the form of seeming selfless. By doing the right thing for it’s own sake, not for fame or monetary gain or anything else, I allow myself to think I’m amazing.

So it was that my friend and I found a hummingbird sitting on my driveway, wings splayed out and breathing heavily. Now, I should tell you that this was on a very hot day. Nearing or above 110°F, because who doesn’t love Southern California, am I right? So with the hummingbird sitting in the shade, my first instinct was that she was just trying to cool off. So I pulled out a cold water bottle, filled the cap, and laid it in front of her so she could drink. When she didn’t even look at it, something seemed off.

I told my mom and she said it’s strange that she would be sitting on the ground for shade instead of a tree, which made me think that something was wrong. We went back outside and I noticed that her eye was messed up, and her feathers were ruffled on her head. In fact, I couldn’t even see a right eye, but it might have just been the feathers getting in the way. Either way, this was definitely the cause.

I’m not sure I’ve ever touched a wild creature before. At least not something I would consider an “animal” rather than a bug. I was tentative this time, because she was very small and her wings were extended. I was afraid she’s fly away if I was too careful, and afraid I’d hurt her if I wasn’t. She did try to fly away, and she seemed to be able to fly just fine, but she didn’t fly far. Maybe her eye really was gone and she couldn’t see very well. So with more courage, I picked her up and put her on our front porch where she’d be safer from local cats (which might have been the culprit to begin with).

My mom got a good look at her and told us we should take her to the vet. I was a little discouraged by this. My friend and I were planning on binging Avatar: The Last Airbender, and neither of us had eaten in a long time. Plus, my car currently has no AC, so getting in the car and driving, regardless of distance, would be pretty miserable.

We drove to the only vet in town I was familiar with (the place we took my cat nearly two years ago) and told them what happened, and they explained that they aren’t certified to treat wildlife. The only place nearby that is is about half an hour away. More driving. Ugh.

On the way there, I shifted the subject away from the hummingbird and the blistering heat to talk about a story I’ve been working on. Both of us needed the distraction, and I think it worked moderately well. I even think I figured out the bump that’s been discouraging me from writing (that particular story, at least, my ‘spark’ is still missing).

When we finally got there, we got out of the car just as an older couple was walking out and getting into their car. They see a young couple with what is pretty much a shoe box, and the lady says “Oh, what’s that?” We tell her it’s a hummingbird, and her eyes light up. She explains her friend owns a hummingbird rescue, and asks us to hang around while she calls her friend to explain the situation.

The coincidence here is astounding, so we wait while she talks to her friend on the phone, and then when the conversation is over she offers to take the bird off our hands. She even shows us her business card to prove that she’s legit. She probably mistook us for a couple that cared deeply about animals and the environment and whatnot, and don’t get me wrong, we do, but one dead bird is not going to change anything. I honestly didn’t care if the bird made it, I just wanted to put her in hands more capable than mine, and this was a serendipitous moment.

So, we ended up getting home and actually settling down nearly two hours later than we intended to start watching, but a story came of it, and I did the only logical thing. I couldn’t have just left the bird there knowing I could help, and the last thing I would have wanted was to try to forget I saw her and then see a dead bird in the driveway the next morning.

Going to Portland, Oregon (Part Two)

I talked about my general experience of my few days in Portland this past Saturday. I didn’t give any specifics, though, so here’s my travel log!

Friday:

Okay, well, the plane landed around midnight, so mostly the four of us hung out with each other before going to bed. Not much to say there.

Saturday:

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The entire city is just built around crazy architecture like this. It astounds me that this is just normal.

The first thing we did the next morning was go see the Saturday Market, which is right next to the Columbia River. There’s all manner of shops for handmade rings and pendants, dyed shirts, various mediums of art, and of course, food. I was pretty impressed by a couple of street performers, though. Their whole shtick was hyping up somebody jumping over random audience members, but they were funny and charming while they did it. It reminded me a lot of the shows you can see at some of the Renaissance Faires I’ve been to. What astonished me most was that they didn’t ask for volunteers, they just pointed at people and pulled them out of the audience and into the performing area. I found that very interesting.

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At the Market I found one shop of this guy that does amazing art. His name is J. Slattum, I recommend you go check it out. I had a hard time picking which painting to buy. I decided to go with the one that initially caught my eye.

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All three of us surreptitiously took a picture of the other two in this spot, which I think is really funny.

The Saturday Market also has an amazing view of the Columbia River as it looks out into the other side of the city. I’d say the picture below does a good job in describing how I feel about Portland. It’s just a wide, green, flat, and much less dense San Fransisco. As a result, absolutely gorgeous.

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Even the normal train offers amazing views. You can see Mt. Hood in the distance here!

We went swimming in Lake Oswego afterwards. None of us had been swimming in a long time, and it was freezing, but we all immediately decided to swim to a buoy and back as practice. Well, the agreed upon buoy was about 200 feet away, and against the

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We were at a public park (that, unbeknownst to us, was closed at the time) in the middle of a bunch of way too expensive houses.

current. I’m not a strong swimmer, and my costochondritis meant that the cold affected my ability to breathe more than it would most, so I’ll admit I did get scared on the way back. I was so tired I could barely swim, and I never learned how to float on one’s back. I considered asking for help, but they probably weren’t much better off. I didn’t go back in the water after that, my legs ached so bad.

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Pretty sure this is a bald eagle, which I have never seen before. It hung out with us all day. Super neat, and even from this distance it was clearly so much bigger than the average crow.

After the lake, I was really tired. Both of the friends I was with are very extroverted people. They cannot get enough of sightseeing and talking and being social. We planned on going to a bar where a friend’s band was playing, to which I requested to stay home at the apartment. Upon my insistence, they left me alone and I got some writing in, as well as some much needed rest. I have never experienced anything like this trip before. Being so far away from any family and not having any time to recharge hit me harder than I expected, and for the first two days of the trip I was emotionally drained.

Sunday:

Sunday morning I was excited because that was the anticipated hike day. As much as I love going on walks and hiking, I don’t do it in Southern California because if I go outside I’ll start melting (and yes, before you comment, I have been to Arizona, and yes, I do hate it). I was excited about this hike because it would be going through national forest, and it was up near Pittock Mansion, too. Incredible nature scenery and majestic architecture? Yes, please. (As a side note, it didn’t rain at all while we were there. I’m both slightly disappointed, because I love the rain, and also relieved, because it would have made sightseeing a lot harder.)

As you can imagine, I took a ton of pictures here. I won’t talk about them, I’ll just leave them here for your viewing pleasure.

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Apparently a famous sign, but I’d honestly never heard of it.

After the hike, we went into downtown to explore. We mostly walked around and did some sightseeing, from going to Killer Burger, to walking by some landmarks, to going into Powell’s (a 5-story bookstore of which I took zero pictures), to getting donuts at Voodoo Donuts.

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I’d imagine that Portland is a great place to film a great many types of things, from fantasy to noir to everyday sitcoms. At least, it would be a great place if there weren’t always so many people walking around all the time.

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Even the car ride home in the middle of the night was beautiful.

Monday:

IMG_20180604_084402637 (Monday Bricks)

Monday morning I had a breakfast date with my grandpa, because he lives in the area and I don’t get to see him very often. (And, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a genuine one-on-one conversation with him.) Getting up as early as I had to was about as difficult as I expected it to be, but the quiet atmosphere and a good chat was nice. Some familiarity in such a foreign world was a treasure to have.

On Monday and Tuesday our two “native” (they’ve only been here a little while) friends had work, so it was up to me and my travel buddy to find places to see and explore. It didn’t occur to me until Monday that everything in Portland can get away with being made of bricks, because there’s no fault line right under it. I know it’s probably stupid to you, but I thought it was interesting that everything is made of bricks here.

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Monday was mostly walking around the city, because we honestly didn’t have much of a plan of where to go. We walked through a park multiple blocks long, right in the middle of downtown, which was cool.

At some point we visited Pioneer Square (in the day this time), and we grabbed some brochures of interesting places to visit for tomorrow.

After that, we went through some suburbs. I think some of the best pictures of the trip came from there. I would kill to live in a place that looked like that.

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On this walk, attached to the gate in front of somebody’s house, was a little box with some books inside. It was one of those “leave one, take one” situations, and I found it fascinating. Inside it was a copy of the first book of the Mistborn series, which made me really sad because as much as I wanted it, I had no book to trade. My travel buddy convinced me it would be okay to take it, just for the story of how I got it.

I thank her immensely for the permission to do that. I would have left it and regretted it if she hadn’t been there.

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We came across an old thrift store of lamps & furniture called “Lounge Lizard”. Awesome place, and it reminded me of the singing improv game of the same name. She had never played it, so I showed it to her on the way back home. As much as I don’t like singing in the presence of others, I rather enjoyed it.

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We headed back into town to have a late lunch at the Old Town Pizza Company, which was a restaurant that was repurposed from an old hotel. Apparently, the booth where you order food is the same concession stand from the original establishment in 1880, which is insane. I didn’t take any pictures of this place, because it was super dark, so enjoy this picture stolen off the internet. We actually almost sat in this booth, but decided to eat upstairs because… well, upstairs.

At about that time our friends were getting off work, so we headed back home, then went back into town to get ramen before playing a drinking game to Disney’s Hercules. It was a great conclusion to an awesome day.

Tuesday:

Tuesday was very similar to Monday, except this time we had a plan for places we wanted to visit. I’m sorry to say I didn’t take many pictures of Tuesday because I was a bit jaded,

We headed into town, ate fries in a park while listening to live violins, then went into the city proper.

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We stumbled across the Church of Scientology, which was… interesting. My friend convinced me to go in and check it out, and boy. They showed us a machine that could “read your thoughts”, which really just detected the presence of electrical signals when you think. The fact that the lady advertised it as borderline magic was insane to me.

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“Psychiatric drugs: Take one!”

After that, we went back to Powell’s, because it was on the way to a place called the Cookie Dough Cafe. Imagine an ice cream shop like Baskin Robbins, only they have vats of raw cookie dough instead of ice cream. (Okay, they also had ice cream, but mostly it was cookie dough.)

It was so thick, that a $3 single scoop of cookie dough was almost too much for me to finish, even though I had eaten very little that day.

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Our last stop for the trip was a brewery called Steven Smith Teamaker. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was lovely. They had a selection of nearly fifty different kinds of teas, and you could buy a flight to try any four. I did this with the resolution to buy the best one, and while I don’t really like green teas, I was surprised when it turned out to be my favorite.

Tuesday Tea

Portland was magical. I learned a lot about the world and myself, and made lots of memories I’ll cherish forever. The day I got back I was hit with a severe… homesickness? I’m sure lots of people are familiar with that feeling, but I had never felt that before. I’m glad that emotion didn’t persist, because it made the following Wednesday and Thursday pretty hard.

Going to Portland, Oregon (Part One)

I went on my first official vacation a few days ago. The plane landed late Friday night and I went back to California Tuesday night. So I thought it would be fun to talk about the trip. In the interest of going to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, I’ll split this post into two. Part One will cover my general experience, and Part Two will be the specifics of what I did.

Side note: Get ready for a long post with lots of pictures. I took an uncharacteristically abundant amount of them. Almost 300 in just 4(ish) days. From the time between the first and last picture I took, my rate of picture taking was around .25 per hour (or 1 every 4 hours depending on how you want to frame that ratio).

IMG_20180603_143148248_HDR.jpgIt’s worth noting right off the bat that I’m very introverted and basically don’t ever leave the house if I don’t have to. Having said that, I wanted to make 2018 memorable by making big changes to my behavior. I don’t like Southern California (it’s just way too hot), and down the road I want to move away from the desert, but I don’t want to move too far to require a plane to see family. Basically, this just means going north to Northern California or Oregon, so visiting the state seemed like a good place to start.

I’ll just tell you right now, I loved it. I only spent time in the Portland area, but the whole place is gorgeous. There are more trees in the densest portions of downtown than there are in some of the parks I live near. To sum up my experience of what Portland “is” in three words: “weird, green community”. And yes, that’s a double entendre.

IMG_20180602_141234693 (Saturday Market).jpgPortland is weird, because people just… talk to each other. In Southern California, conversations with strangers only happen when they’re obligatory, and it’s literally the same conversation every time. If an alien was teleported into LA with no understanding of the English language, I would give him a list of about 5 words/phrases and any surface level conversation would sound normal: “Hi”, “How are you?”, “Good”, “Have a nice day”, and “Thanks”. He could pretty much dictate those phrases at random to a stranger and they probably wouldn’t notice.

IMG_20180605_142405103.jpgIn Portland it’s different. I’m not used to just chatting with cashiers about my cool shirt or Steven Universe or, well… anything. It’s small talk, yes, and I thought I hated small talk, but there’s something about the easy and simple connection strangers are allowed to have that is amazing. We got into a literal argument with some guy over which of us was next in line, because everyone involved was trying to be polite and have the other go first. Spoiler: the guy ended up storming off to force us to go first, so he won. The next day, we walked by homeless people getting tattoos done on the sidewalk, and the people I was with at the time struck up a conversation about fashion. It just boggles my mind, and yes, before you ask, that circumstance made me very uncomfortable.

The city is also very transportation friendly. $5 will get you an all day train ticket, and you can use the trains to get anywhere in Portland within an hour. I got the sense that, depending on the traffic, it can actually be a lot faster than driving, especially since you don’t have to worry about parking or gas. Most of the time, the trains weren’t even that busy, my friends and I almost always had a row of seats available.

IMG_20180603_212008967 (Pioneer Square Night).jpgPortland is also amazing in that everywhere you stand, you can take a great picture. You’re also within an hour of both downtown and giant national forests, even if you’re right in the middle of the city. Plus, Mt. Hood is always in the distance, and having seen a genuine mountain, I now understand that feeling of “I wanna go there and do that”. Another thing to note: living in Earthquake Land also makes me unaccustomed to actual architecture of brick and stone. I’ve seen pictures, but man, the older buildings in the city look incredible.

So, in conclusion: Portland is incredible, and I’m going back someday.