For a year or so, I walked the same route to work every day. I called it the Shanghaied route. This was a superstitious ritual I started when I submitted my story for Portland Noir (because even though I don't believe in much of anything, I'm very superstitious and love to play games to make myself crazy). I wrote a blogpost for the Powell's website that better explains this particular neurosis, but the basic idea is that somehow I decided if I walked this way every day the story would be accepted. Then when it was accepted, I figured I'd better keep walking this way every day or the economy would tank enough to swallow Akashic Books up and a very fun publication with it. Then when the book came out, I figured I'd better keep walking this way or the incredible sales we were having on the book would stop.
This could go on forever. But when my essay was accepted for the Pacific Northwest Reader, I realized I could jump from one crazy superstitious ritual to another - yay! - and I was so clever that I set up the new ritual so that instead of walking one particular route, I would have to walk a different route every day. Because the essay is all about discovery, you see.
I'll admit this is kind of like the time when I was a kid and was fed up trying for miracles and said, "God, if you're real, do absolutely nothing right now," but I figure I can get away with it, because I am the God of this particular neurotic universe, and I get to make up the rules. And the rule isn't that I can never walk the exact same path I've walked before, by the way - I just have to walk differently than yesterday.
Which is excellent in autumn because you can search for the best stretches of leaves. My goal this time around has been to write down each route I take and make note of where the beauty is. I have remembered to do this exactly two times.
Yesterday: down 20th - yellow leaves against black skeleton trees - to the edge of Couch Park. Left there, just before the park, and I have lots of color on both sides and a Cleopatra path to follow down to my favorite little mini-neighborhood where the houses are suddenly Victorian... or Edwardian... or. I don't know anything about the names of houses, but they're elaborate and out of place and the trees make a tunnel like the whole place is domed. Domed with bright orange-red now, and the sidewalks are orange-red, and the orange-red leaves lying against the cherry red Chinese maple are so beautiful I have to stop and turn back to look again.
Raining soft and the hood over my head obscures the edges of things so I have to keep turning the whole top of my body to see it all. Here, I realize I've picked up the Shanghaied route, which seems a little risky. Like maybe if I take the Shanghaied route my brain will tell me I'd better keep walking this way every day or, or, or. But no, it'll be fine, and in fact, maybe I should be so bold as to follow the Shanghaied route all the way down. Cross the freeway at Glisan. The soft rain becomes medium rain. Leave the hood on but get the umbrella up, turn at 13th where the street becomes pavement lined with loading docks. Wind so strong it's got both hands on my umbrella and pulling and I have to walk along the loading docks, under awnings - up and down steps - so I won't blow away. Cargo has red lights under its awning and a new weird pink roof covering like easter basket grass. And hanging underneath the awning, too, are papier maché baby heads in plastic bubbles.
I could take the jog to Everett and continue my Shanghaied route past Everett St. Bistro, but the rain comes sideways at me like wedding rice - pointy. So I keep going down 13th, along the backs of warehouses, up and down stairs, to keep as dry as possible. Could go all the way to Burnside this way, but Burnside is boring, so I turn at Couch. Duck under little awnings when I can. Past the smell of coffee at Peet's and on to Powell's, and I think, now that is a Portland walk. Nice.