We rolled into Portland, Oregon on a Greyhound bus on 4th July. Not just July 4th weekend, but the actual birth day itself of the United States of America. Not one of our sharpest moves as myself and my travel consort, who we shall call D, had spent the last couple of days getting pell-melled in LA followed by mellow downtime in San Francisco scoffing our faces with burritos, and failed to book accommodation in one of America's on-trend cities for one of the nation's biggest weekends of the year. Travel lethargy had taken over. Grabbing our backpacks from under the bus, we scoped out the waiting terminal and figured we could hunker down there for the night. We learned that overnight buses saved us beer dollars by cutting the cost of several nights' accommodation and bus stations no longer terrified us. Savvy travellers that we are.
Buoyed up on the thrill of having made it, all limbs fully intact, to Portland, I however got down to some bed-scouting brass tacks, refusing to be defeated on this celebratory day. Hotels, of course, sat beyond budget, hostels had been booked up weeks in advance and Couch Surfing was proving awkward, Airbnb, however, pulled through. Within minutes Cha-Cha at Hawthorne House could accommodate us...pack your bags we were going to stay in the Butterfly and Blossom Room. The guitar pictured had clinched the deal.
A $17 Uber fare later and up we trundled onto a weather-worn porch and into what closely resembled the witches' house in Hocus Pocus. All dusty candles and a door-stopper of a Signs of the Zodiac book atop a large, free-standing book-holder. The house was void of all people so we meekly climbed the creaking staircase, with the slats looking like they were being held together by spiderwebs.
A heatwave had descended on Portland and the irony that I left NYC to escape its steaming sidewalks did not elude me. But here we were with a real bed to sleep in, a kitchen in which to cook our 89 cent broccoli rice and a shower heaving under the weight of copious bottles of shampoo and conditioner..score!
A quick gander around the house informed us that great pride in general domestic care was not high on Cha Cha's list of hostess' duties. A ripe smell emanated from the kitchen, thanks in no small part to the two plastic compost containers with what I presumed were fruit flies lazily sniffing around. The fridge, opened for 1.5 seconds, merely added to the already fruity smell, compelling me to open the screen door.
Safe to say no satisfaction could come from wiping down any countertop given the number of plants, recipe books, utensils, mason jars, tin cans full of pens, candelabras, chipped teapots and unopened mail stacked high that sat on any given spot. The walls were lined with herbs, bunches of dried lavender and religious motifs, while the floor lamented the lack of mopping and the spider nestled ever-so-contently at eye level above the dining room table looked in no rush to vacate its webby podium.
Out on the front porch, meanwhile, the age-old couches bursting at the seams and stained from goodness knows what..red wine? Old bong remnants? Garden mud-cakes? offered us a rustic repose amid the solar-powered fairy lights. It was then that Cha Cha arrived to tell us that this higglety-pigglety mish mash is her form of quiet revolution against the threat of her landlord coming in to take over the house and sell it for a pretty penny in what is fast becoming a lucrative real estate business in Portland. There is no denying that a certain character is carefully knitted into the bones and make-up of this dwelling - a twenty-year work in progress.
Soon we met the band of denizens occupying the rooms, we drank $2 PBRs and played pool at a dive bar around the corner. Someone bought a box of Voodoo doughnuts and left them on the kitchen table under the instruction to "Eat Me"; the fire pit is lit at weekends and the hot tub is at present being spruced up for summer; Hawthorne Boulevard sits at the end of the street with all its cosy establishments; a hammock hanging out the front is fast becoming my designated spot and there is never any shortage of loo roll.
And with that, we decide to stay for summer. Despite the New York price tag that comes with renting a room in a house charged with eclectic personas, this could actually work. Even the savviest of travellers need to hang up their backpacks for a time. It's nowhere great, I'm not trying to romanticise it, it's just where I currently live.