Friendship is nothing to take for granted. It takes purpose, honesty and, these days, communication in all forms to sustain it and help it flourish.
With this in mind, I was happy to hang out last weekend with my best friend, Al Rodriguez, and his wife, Elizabeth Lee. They flew up from Santa Barbara Friday and spent three full days and nights with us before leaving Monday.
Such visits go a long way toward reinforcing old bonds forged over decades with Al and newer ones established with Elizabeth, who I’ve known for a shorter time. Lately, we’ve been lucky to see each other more frequently than usual, thanks to last year’s weddings of our daughters just two months apart. They came north for Simone’s. We went south for Nicole’s.
The reason for last weekend’s visit? The annual meetup of folks who contribute to Voices of August, my guest blog project now in its fifth year. We had about two dozen people come together at a Portland brewpub on Saturday, and the Santa Barbarans came the farthest. (More on the meetup to come in a separate post.)
The weather was perfect from the time Al and Elizabeth arrived to the time they left. We did our best to keep them entertained while also allowing a little (but just a little) down time.
Friday night, Simone and Kyndall came over to join us for a dinner of homemade tamales. Great conversation and delicious food.
Saturday morning, Al and I went out for a bro-breakfast at Zell’s in southeast Portland, a perfect place for one-on-one conversation at the counter. Afterwards, the four of us did a walking tour of the Lloyd District, where several new apartment complexes are changing the character of the neighborhood, and then headed down to the Eastbank Esplanade next to the Willamette River.
We had lunch, hit the gym (Al is a serious swimmer and cyclist in training for another long ride) and then joined fellow writers at the VOA meetup.
(Click on images to view captions.)
Sunday, we devoured Breakfast by Lori, featuring local chorizo from the Kenton Farmers Market, and then headed out on bikes for an utterly relaxing ride along the river to South Waterfront and beyond to the Willamette Greenway. Our route took us over the brand-new Tilikum Crossing, through Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, across the Steel Bridge bike/ped crossing and around the Oregon Convention Center.
Another short break then it was off to dinner at Mediterranean Exploration Company, a gem of a restaurant serving Israeli-inspired cuisine. It was fun to be among adventurous eaters eager or willing to try a number of small plates, including grilled octopus.
Monday morning came all too quickly. But I’m confident our guests enjoyed themselves, even if Charlotte’s “assertive” terrier-mix personality came as an eye-opener. The weather was glorious, the time well spent, and the conversation always stimulating, whether touching on family, politics, each others’ cities or retirement (actual or coming soon).
I’ve often thought of Al as the brother I never had. Great to see him and his bride once again.