I’ve got this buddy who lives in Old Town … actually, let’s stop there. If he’s reading this, he’s already laughing and pissed. He lives on the Park Blocks, 8th and Burnside. I called it Old Town, he called it The Pearl, and we’ve been giving each other shit ever since. Guys call this busting each others’ balls. It’s what we do.
With this particular buddy, we share some other, more real stuff. You know, feelings and stuff. He has had some losses lately, and in the month of September I lost a girlfriend, car, job and apartment. I’ve been living in a country song. And he and I talked about hiking with friends on Sunday, to get some air and clear the head.
But I decided I couldn’t make it. I need a day to just sit on my ass and not know what I’m doing. And write. But I wanted to see him. I’m tired, burnt, and just want some good company and food. He was also celebrating an anniversary of sorts, so I said I’d buy him breakfast.
“Where should we meet,” he asked.
I put it all together: tired, just want some food and talking, nothing too far or too much, just sit with a friend and eat something I don’t even need to comment on and won’t surprise me a bit. That would be Fuller’s.
I got there right before they opened. A guy in a tie-dye was on the sidewalk admiring an old convertible Camaro. A cute hipster-looking girl was getting off a vintage scooter. The staff was inside sweeping up. It was a quiet, cool morning in the Pearl, and I had slept well.
She opened the door and the three of us shuffled in. Tie-dye guy started trading barbs with the owner, something about a gas line, and cutey turned out to be one of the waitresses. She poured me some bland coffee from a Farmers Brothers mug and handed me a menu: black ink and writing on white laminated paper, with every combination of egg, meat, bread, potato, pancake and waffle you can imagine. A few “twists” like strawberries and a tomate sauce. A “famous ‘omelet’.” I sipped coffee and looked around.
The counters were slowly filling by now, with the whole range of Portland breakfast characters: the middle-aged couple sharing a newspaper. The Hispanic guys who might have just gotten off work. The tourists who looked thrilled to have found a “real Portland place.” The gay couple who may have been out all night. The dudes talking dude stuff. The hungover-looking scruffy guy nursing a cup of joe with his hat pulled down low. Wait, that was me.
David came in, slapped me on the shoulder, and we ordered. It’s one of those places where I just tell them what I want — two scrambled eggs, some bacon, and one blueberry pancake — and they say, “Oh, that’s the special with an extra egg and the blueberry cake.” Right, I’ll have that. David went with the famous. I think it was more or less a Denver. Does it matter?
We couldn’t even get our coffees half-empty before somebody came around. The food arrived in minutes. Somehow we felt we had a private space to talk, even with strangers within feet of us. We might have admired the waitress as she walked away from us. We both made her laugh at least once. We might have been competing.
I hardly remember what we talked about, and of course the food … I mean, you know what the food was. It’s Fuller’s, or a million other places all over the country where folks were doing exactly what we were doing at exactly the same time: eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and talking. Sometimes that’s all you want, and sometimes, like this morning, you remember that it’s actually a lot. It’s comforting and filling in many ways.
And for this Sunday, with life moving just a little too fast and in too many directions, Fuller’s gave us the perfect Portland breakfast.