J.F. Hannan. Writer. Editor. Sardonic chap.

The Portland Experience (Part 5)

Part five in a five-part series, describing Portland, Oregon as a journey through the senses. Part one. Part two. Part three. Part four. (Photo by Joseph Hannan)

Follow your nose in Portland, Oregon:

  1. The electrified, cotton-candy sugar haze that hung in the air inside and outside Voodoo Doughnut
  2. The pungent musk of marijuana smoke drifting over Yamhill Street
  3. The bouquet of charcoal, spice and wood smoke that emanated from every cluster of food carts I passed
  4. The restorative, invigorating aroma of every cup of coffee I drank
  5. The comforting must of old books mixing with fresh newsprint and paperbacks inside Powell’s Books
  6. The scent of Oak and other hardwood relics from the first Oregonians, filling the halls of the Oregon My Oregon exhibit at the historical society’s museum, calling me back to the beginning of history

The Portland Experience (Part 4)

Part four in a five-part series, describing Portland, Oregon as a journey through the senses. Part one. Part two. Part three. (Photo by Joseph Hannan)

Getting the feel of Portland, Oregon:

  1. Misplaced tension and anxiety caused by strangers with no intent but to make polite conversation
  2. The July, Jersey City heat that followed me out there, turning pale, Pacific Northwest skin pink
  3. The cool grass I napped on, under the outstretched limbs of a maple tree
  4. Exhaustion from a four-mile run along the river, followed by a cured meat binge, followed by a doughnut binge, followed by a sleep binge
  5. Placid, like being pushed by the wind toward home, across the great plains, with the knowledge of a city that doesn’t feel like a city at all

Weekend adventures in Island Heights, N.J. and Philadelphia, Pa.

The Portland Experience (Part 3)

Part two in a five-part series, describing Portland, Oregon as a journey through the senses. Part one. Part two. (Photo by Joseph Hannan)

Eating (and drinking) alone in Portland, Oregon:

  1. The old-world, smoked and savory deliciousness that was the Choucroute Garnie at Olympic Provisions Southeast: kielbasa, bratwurst, frankfurter, ham, braised cabbage, potatoes and grain mustard
  2. The carefully crafted French-style omelette at Bijou Cafe: goat cheddar, bacon and green onion
  3. The hearty, heart-stopping, no substitutions pimento double cheeseburger at Trifecta Tavern (chased with some George Dickel rye)
  4. Dining wildly at the Beez Neez food truck, with every gratifyingly snappy bite into a spicy reindeer sausage with onion on a toasted roll
  5. Blue Star, the da Vinci of donuts, where I got my daily whiskey ration with their blueberry, bourbon and basil masterpiece (at right in the photo above), and came close to ordering a second passion fruit with cocoa nib. OK, I almost ordered a second blueberry, bourbon and basil, too. Best donuts I’ve ever had. 

The Portland Experience (Part 2)


Part two in a five-part series, describing Portland, Oregon as a journey through the senses. Part one is here. (Photo by Joseph Hannan)

Overheard in Portland, Oregon:

  1. The busker who summoned the ghost of Lead Belly to wail a cover of “Blunderbuss,” played on an out-of-tune guitar, next to waiting patrons at Voodoo Doughnut
  2. "It’s a town full of fakers, liars, cheats, dirtbags, con-artists, lunatics." The pyrotechnical bartender on the drunk woman who said she was a sales rep for Armagnac
  3. "That’s the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ side of town." A woman on what lies on the western bank of the Willamette River
  4. The shrill, maniacal laughter of a restaurant patron, and the chef who mocked him as he prepared my meal
  5. The trilling of a tin whistle that a teenager played, waking me from a nap on the grass in Tom McCall Waterfront Park

The Portland Experience (Part 1)

Part one in a five part series, describing Portland, Oregon as a journey through the senses. (Photo by Joseph Hannan)

Sighted in Portland, Oregon:

  1. The sun sinking toward the Pacific Ocean, casting a golden veins through a cobalt sky as I crossed the Burnside Bridge
  2. The alluring, majestic, deadly summit of Mt. Hood, towering in the distance as my cab crept along Route 84
  3. A woman with a weather-worn cardboard sign outside Voodoo Doughnut, asking for $24 to get home
  4. Acres of book-lined shelves at Powell’s Books, with new and used volumes intermingled
  5. Two men shuffling down Yamhill Street, passing a (I’m assuming medicinal) joint between them; and the woman who approached them for a light, and then hit the bricks after they offered her the joint to light her cigarette
  6. People returning to their plush hotel rooms downtown, and people returning to their slabs of concrete on West Burnside Street
  7. The vested bartender who made a pyrotechnic display out of a cocktail involving a burnt orange rind, and the drunk woman who sipped it over a steaming plate of cheese grits


It’s hard to remember now, but I seem to recall that the last time I saw the light was a month ago. The master stood before me, tall, majestic, wreathed in light that streamed through the bay windows of the living room. He saw me lying prostrate on the floor, lost somewhere in the recesses of my mind. I quivered with euphoria, filled with joy at what I’d just seen. I sprang from the floor toward the light. And as quickly as the light appeared, it was gone.

“You’ll never learn, Dylan,” he said, laughing.

The master derived constant enjoyment from my quest for the light. To the outside observer, it might seem like the master’s laughter came at my expense. But I knew the master’s heart. I know it still. I know his heart because knowing it is just the same as knowing my own. We share a bond that transcends time or distance. When the master calls, I cannot help but answer.

On this particular concrete-gray morning, the master puttered about his bedroom, getting ready for work.

The light stood stark against the bay window glass. I had to squint to see, and through half-closed eyes, I could see it out there, beyond the living room, beyond the boundaries of consciousness, glimmering with limitless possibility.

The light was mine to take. I was born to take it. Salivating at the prospect, I rose to my fighting stance, coiling every muscle in my body, knowing that it would require an uncompromising leap of faith to bring in the light, to never release it, to finally understand the mystery. If it had to be, this leap would be my final devotional.

“Dylan, no!”

But it was too late. With all my canine strength, I shattered that bay window, tumbling free, buoyed by the alacrity of the final breakthrough, the seeker’s delight. I hit the ground hard, my paws digging into the rain-softened turf of the front yard. I had lost the light, but I was liberated in its loss. Breathing deeply, I could smell the deer roaming the hills a mile in the distance, the bear who had just torn up the trash on the opposite side of the neighborhood, the pungent sourness of the skunk that slunk under the porch across the street. I had my breakthrough, and my tail was wagging so mightily, I couldn’t walk straight.

So I ran. I tore through the woods, swam through swamps and bounded through briars, all the while, the master’s voice sounding in my ears, along with my baying response. If only he could understand.

“Don’t worry. I love you. I will come home. But for now, let’s enjoy the light together.”

A story for Layla, a great dog.

“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

(Top and right) Cabbage Island, Me.; West Milford, N.J.: With my beautiful bride to be