October flashed by, bridging the gap between summer and fall while convincing me most of the month was just an extension of an undeniably pleasant Portland summer.
The rain set in late in the month, as expected, and my sights shifted away from summer hikes to the upcoming ski season. The Cascades got their first dusting of the year as the month came to a close, and I now have a habit of checking the conditions daily.
My month was punctuated by two bits of fun: Brandon, my college roommate and a great friend, visited from Salt Lake City, and I attended perhaps the most exciting sports event I’ve ever seen. More on the second part in a bit.
Brandon and I went on an all-out Portland blitz during the three days he was in town: Hiking, driving to the coast, and attending a concert and a hockey game. That’s not to mention the outstanding food and beer.
Meeting up with him reminded me of the collective college experiences we shared, and how lucky I am to have met a great crew during my undergraduate years. Even without the shared connections of classes and student media, we filled three days with unforced, pleasant conversation, like we were on our front porch back in Athens.
Flash forward a couple weeks: I’m jogging past Providence Park, home of Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, on a late Thursday afternoon, skirting the crowd forming in advance of the team’s knockout round playoff match.
Planning to listen to the match on the radio, I checked StubHub when I got home — you know, just for kicks. (Unintended soccer pun.) Twelve dollars and 90 minutes later, I was standing several rows back of a corner flag, ready for what would become a historic night for Portland soccer fans.
I’ll leave the play-by-play to the professionals, but the Timbers and Sporting Kansas City were tied at the end of regulation, sending the match into two 15-minute periods of overtime play. The opposition scored first, and it appeared the clock was ticking down on the Timbers’ season. But with 12 minutes left in the overtime period, the Timbers netted a dramatic equalizer that sent the match into penalty kicks.
Let me pause on the dramatic bit. This was a moment many sports fans are familiar — but not well acquainted — with. A moment where you jump, literally, and turn to the folks behind you, exchanging sloppy high-fives and yelling your praises. If you don’t do this, you are out of place.
The stadium simply went nuts. And that wasn’t the best of it.
My palms began to throb during the penalty kick shootout, red from two hours of intermittent clapping. My legs were sore and full of nervous energy. I hadn’t sat since halftime.
The crowd’s roar came to a crescendo every 60 seconds or so, rising to a peak in the moments surrounding each kick. This culminated in nothing short of a frenzy when Portland’s keeper — the 11th Timbers player to kick — scored a goal of his own and then returned to the net to save a shot from his Kansas City counterpart. The game was over, and in Portland’s favor. Someone lit flares outside the stadium. The Portland players stormed their keeper. The crowd was chanting, clapping and on its feet some eight minutes after the game concluded.
I’ve watched a lot of sports, I thought, but had never seen anything like this.
The suspense of the match can be summed up in one moment.
While watching the overtime play, I drew in a short, punctual breath through my nose. It broke a trance. I had just been forgetting to breathe, I realized. This has to be something other people are familiar with: something you experience during a scary movie, when you’re about to cry, or while doing some kind of yoga thing.
Or watching a soccer game, apparently. I can’t remember a time I was so glued in, so invested, in something that had no bearing whatsoever on my life.
Best $12 I’ve ever spent.
Several day trips comprised my October travels. With temperatures dropping and fall weather setting in, I was lucky to experience overwhelmingly pleasant conditions during two trips to the Columbia River Gorge and one apiece to the Oregon Coast and rural Washington.
During the first trip to the gorge, Brandon and I hiked a trail to the top of Multnomah Falls, the second-tallest year-round waterfall in the U.S., and then meandered along a river trail for a couple miles. The fall colors had just set in, which made for different scenery than when I visited the area this past summer.
We visited Cannon Beach the next day and walked along the coast to Haystack Rock. The conditions were unseasonably warm with only moderate winds, a departure from usual coastal conditions this time of year.
I later hiked at Powell Butte (with friends Dillon and Sara) and went back to the gorge for a trip to Angel’s Rest, a bluff that overlooks the Columbia River at about 1,500 feet.
And I rounded up the month with a trip to rural Washington, where I drove on about 10 miles of dirt roads to reach the Silver Star Recreation Area and many hiking options. Even the parking area and trailhead was picturesque; the charred remains of campfires showed that other hikers felt similarly and stayed there overnight to enjoy the views of mountains and rolling hills in the distance.
In pursuit of an important story, you cannot let fear — or the shackles of social graces — be an anchor to your ambitions. There are no good stories to be told in life’s safe harbors.
— Kevin Van Valkenburg, on why storytelling matters
But I’m not used to views from on high or high-end chefs anyway. And $100 provided for a day of sights and tastes of London from street level that, while perhaps not suited for a monarch, was just perfect for my commoner’s taste.
— The New York Times, on a $1,000 day in London for $100
Walter Dickens weaved through his mother’s boxes to answer a knock at the door.
It was the fourth one that Sunday afternoon, two days since he’d met the president and 10 since he lost his mother, Sarena Moore, in the shootings at Umpqua Community College. Like all the rest, this latest visitor brought something other than answers.
— The Oregonian/OregonLive, on a son whose mother died in the Umpqua Community College shootings
Off Georgia State Route 100, at the edge of Chattooga County, across from a row of chicken houses, in front of a forest, inside a beige trailer, next to a stationary bike and a marching band drum and two snakeskins and boxes of old newspapers and a rusty stapler and books about philosophy, poetry and nude beaches, Serpentfoot sits on a ripped red couch.
— The Chattanooga Times Free-Press, on a woman who wants to change her name to 101-word phrase
On a Friday night this September, Morris streaks up and down the field at Cagan Stadium against the University of San Francisco, having his way with defenders each time he touches the ball. A few hundred people sit watching in the stands, many of them unaware that they’re watching a rising national team star.
— Grantland, on rising U.S. soccer striker Jordan Morris
It was so Washington, the way they met. She was on the dais at a panel discussion on media and politics, holding forth knowledgeably; he was in the audience, smitten.
— The Washington Post, on a couple’s love
The neighbors said that they seldom saw her but that for more than a year they hadn’t seen her at all. One called her “a little strange.” Another said she “just disappeared.”
— The Tampa Bay Times, on a woman who disappeared in her own home
As the polar ice caps melt and the earth churns through the Sixth Extinction, another unprecedented phenomenon is taking place, in the realm of sex. Hookup culture, which has been percolating for about a hundred years, has collided with dating apps, which have acted like a wayward meteor on the now dinosaur-like rituals of courtship.
— Vanity Fair, on Tinder and mobile hook-up apps
They found him in the living room, crumpled up on the mottled carpet. The police did. Sniffing a fetid odor, a neighbor had called 911. The apartment was in north-central Queens, in an unassertive building on 79th Street in Jackson Heights.
— The New York Times, on dying alone
I’m reading Mark Leibovich’s “This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital” this month. It’s a hilariously written (and meticulously detailed) description of life inside the Beltway, so to speak, and is put together in such a way that’s appealing to politics buffs and the non-political alike. It’s a slow read if you want to follow all the characters woven into each chapter, but that doesn’t take away from its appeal. I’d recommend it.
You should consider attending a Pop-Up Magazine show if there’s ever one in your area. The on-stage “magazine” is a highly entertaining — and inventive — storytelling form. Pop-Up Magazine just finished its first nationwide tour.
I recently reported on the church’s response to the Umpqua Community College shootings and a 27-year-old killed after being hit by a car.
As always, thanks for reading.