Interlude: Trek in the Park: Portland, Oregon

Today I’m getting ready to see Trek in the Park (as in Star Trek) with one of my favorite people.

My intrepid cousin Rachel, who has visited fifty countries, has dropped anchor in an old trendy port-town where the summers and the hiking are glorious. She lives with an equally awesome guy named Jerry who is not only a published author, but also a self proclaimed “expert of heavy metal.”

The two meet in a comic book store and soon after pack their east coast possessions together and drive out west for a new beginning. Reading Harry Potter books through the wheat fields of America, they stop at the National Parks, wrestle with finding radio stations, and by time they reach Multnomah Falls and Voodoo donut, Neville Longbottom is a hero.

My two favorite nerds have settled in nicely to become Portland’s own Papagena and Papageno! And just like those two love-birds, spontaneous duets are one of their most endearing trademarks.

While getting ready for our trek, Rachel begins to sing. “There is no sign of land, you are coming down with me.” Jerry takes the next line. ”Hand in unlovable hand.” Then together. “I hope you die.” Then with even more dramatic gusto. “I hope we both die…” I can’t help but laugh. The humorous disconnect from The Mountain Goats’ lyrics and these twos delivery encapsulates both their adoration of each other and what little remains of their east coast irreverence.

Rachel swears she was ready ten minutes ago.

After two false alarms, we finally make it into the car and leave behind two curious chihuahuas looking out the window. We are going to a park where no one has gone before to see an acting troupe perform an episode from the classic Star Trek series. I worry it might be a joke. Maybe Ripley and Nova are lucky they’re more into the Star Wars franchise and not going!

My worries are set aside immediately. The vocalist who begins the production does an incredible hommage to the original theme song famously sung by coloratura soprano Loulie Jean Norman. It sets a tone and soon I see the troupe are clearly well rehearsed and deadly serious about giving the audience a show prosperous in nostalgia! The audience high fives each other like Portlanders, with reserved claps and head nods. The troupe will perform a new episode for each of the next five summers, it is a five year mission after all. By the final year, the small audience has outgrown Woodlawn Park and moves to Cathedral Park to handle fans who have multiplied like tribbles, now in the thousands. Our ‘best friend’ Garret Wang, from Star Trek Voyager even plays a cameo for the final summer. 

Portland always has the potential to surprise you with something charming. It’s one of those cities who’s residents refer to her with the reverence one might extend to David Bowie or Weird Al Yancovich. Her voice is loud with whimsy and quirk. Throw in a Voodoo doughnut, a five story book store, a classic arcade, and the occasional accordion playing Darth Vader on a unicycle and it is a fun place to call home in the summer. Somebody bring back the Portland Cello Project Dance Party please…

If you ever visit Portland: park on ‘Park’, Couch Street is pronounced ‘Cooch,’ and do not miss the incredible opera company!

She has a thriving opera culture! Walk pass the giant chess board, step over the Ziggy stardust mural and head into the Newmark Theatre, and bellow toi, toi, toi!