By Dr. Tim Seelig–
It’s hard to believe my last article, “SF in the Rearview Mirror,” was two months ago. My friends at the San Francisco Bay Times allowed me to skip a month since my laptop was buried somewhere in the mountainous piles of boxes and bubble wrap filling my new condo. It looked like the view of Mt. Hood outside my living room window. Oops. Spoiler alert (rubbing it in a bit). The mountain is covered in this white stuff called snow nearly year-round.
Most of us have moved at least once in our lives. We are a transitory people, after all. Sixty percent of San Francisco residents were born outside of the city. Moving is never fun. I have found, though, that the more you do it the less you have to move! Every time, I channel Marie Kondo. If it doesn’t spark joy, it’s off to Community Thrift where sales benefit the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC)!
I moved several times during my 11+ years in San Francisco. It most definitely helped me get to know the city. Got to say one of my favorites was the Inner Sunset. It’s one reason I felt comfortable moving to Portland—trading Karl the Fog for Portland’s reportedly wet/gray weather. That has not been my experience for my first two months. There has been zero rain and it’s been warm, but not San Francisco warm. By the way, The New York Times recently reported that Karl has decreased his appearances by one third since 1951.
My final week in SF was the thing of dreams. In fact, beyond dreams. I will cherish every moment of it the rest of my life. The last three weeks, the SFGMC medical team literally put me in quarantine to make sure I would not contract COVID and miss my final concert. It’s very hard to say goodbye to someone who is not there. That time at home allowed me to pack little by little so I was ready when the movers arrived July 18, only three days after the festivities ended.
This move was like none other in my life. For the first time, I was not moving for a job. I was not moving to upgrade my living quarters—or downsize them. I wasn’t moving in with or out from another human. I was moving into the unknown in so many ways.
Why Portland, you ask? Well, a year ago, I started looking for 3 things:
1. Cost of living less than the Bay Area. That was easy to find.
2. Liberal politics. Dallas dropped from the contenders like a rock!
3. Water, water everywhere. Palm Springs dropped. So did Denver. Pools don’t count.
Portland answered all three, so we headed out on our adventure. We? Of course. I could not have made this life change without my adorable partner in crime, Tater Tot. I have had a dog my entire adult life. I don’t think I have ever leaned on one for support as I have Tater. He was so incredibly sweet to listen to me talk as we drove out of town. They know when we are sad, when our hearts hurt. Each step of the way, I shared with him what I was thinking and feeling. He was wonderful, and best of all, he’s not going to tell anyone what I said or divulge the tears I shed as we drove across the Bay Bridge.
Portland is basically a 10-hour drive. That is without two approximately 71-year-old bladders on board. We divided the trip in half with a stop half-way at Rogue River near Grants Pass. Stunning.
I had the amazing help of a wonderful realtor who sings in the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus and serves on the GALA Choruses board. He found us the perfect place. It is one level on the first floor—an excellent selling point for retirees! Water? We live on an island, for heaven’s sake.
We have a balcony and a patio! It feels like we live in the middle of the Columbia River and, yes, Mt. Hood sits at the end of our river view! Tim and Tater Tot are home. It took two weeks for the movers to arrive with the furniture. I took that time to decorate the patio and balcony. I do not have a green thumb. I chose succulents to remind me of SF and because they are impervious to neglect. My bestie Dan flew in from Denver as soon as the movers arrived and helped enormously with unpacking and all things IT.
Then, it was time to start checking Portland boxes: Costco, Drag, Food, Beauty, and the Beach.
I made the requisite trip to Costco. I wanted rice but not 50 lbs. I obviously need “Costco Training for Singles.” I have to learn the trick to buying in bulk. I didn’t do it in San Francisco due to space constraints. I have a little more room here, so I can invest in the 36 rolls of toilet paper!
Everyone insisted I experience the iconic drag queen Darcelle XV. At 91, she holds the Guinness World Record as the “oldest working drag queen.” She is currently doing her act from a wheelchair, which she will “toss aside” one of these days. She ended Act 1 singing “Send in The Clowns.” Tear jerker. She owns Darcelle XV Showplace, the longest continuously running cabaret in the U.S. at 55 years! I am so happy I experienced it.
Upon weigh in at my annual physical after my first year in San Francisco, my doctor asked, “Are you just eating your way through the city?” I said, “Yes.” And got a new doctor. I’m off to a great start in Portland, another foodie heaven. First of all, the donuts. What is it about Portland and donuts? Faves are Voodoo, Blue Star, and Pip’s. I know I’ve only been here two months, but the food scene is incredible and very different than SF. There are the famous food trucks, of course. The restaurants are casual and offering phenomenal local fare. I think Portland holds the records for more coverage by Diners, Drive-ins and Dives than any other city. I have done seafood several times, Vietnamese, Italian, Peruvian, Thai, Mexican, Guamanian, Chinese, modern American and some of the best Southern food ever at places such as Gravy and Pine Street Biscuits. I’ve just started! I have not had a doctor’s appointment yet, so there will be no shaming since there will be no base line for comparison!
The summer is obviously the time to be here in the Northwest. The street fairs and markets are in full bloom. I bopped over the bridge to the Vancouver, WA, Farmer’s Market: gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, Rainier cherry vinegar, Portland herb goat cheese, wild huckleberry lemon chess pie, and Washington apple butter. I love the massive Portland Saturday Market and Rose City Food Park. I’ve just begun with food trucks!
Portland is just so darn gorgeous. My first Portland Labor Day, Tater and I jumped in the car and just starting driving East on the Washington side of the Columbia River. We had no idea where we were going. We discovered the stunning Bridge of the Gods. It carried us over the river and then we made our way back to Portland on the Oregon side. Breathtaking green and blue and mountains and, oh yes, water.
One of my friends, who is the conductor of the Eugene Gay Men’s Chorus, and his husband packed up their dog and me and Tater Tot and we drove to the beach at Seaside, Oregon. Oh, the Oregon coast. It’s just under 2 hours from here. I have a feeling Tater and I’ll be making that trip fairly often. They brought chairs and snacks and Prosecco and we spent the afternoon just soaking in the beauty.
If you made it this far, you must love reading travel logs! I promise there won’t be another one of these. I’m not going anywhere! I am so very excited that I get to continue writing to you each month. I am already thinking about the things I want to share.
At this point, I want to thank you for your support over these last six years of writing this column. I look forward to sharing with you every month and I am so very grateful for you! “See” you in October. Maybe by then, I’ll experience that rain everyone talks about.
Dr. Tim Seelig is the Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. http://www.timseelig.com/
TLC: Tear, Laughs and Conversation
Published on September 22, 2022