Your traveling correspondent is writing from a train on its way to Seattle where I will hop a flight back to St. Paul. My summer has included a fair amount of traveling for business and pleasure - this latest was a drive to Portland to help my daughter get situated in her first off-campus digs. I finally got the chance to become acquainted with Ikea and I leave with some confidence that my junior has adequate veneered birch furniture for her newly painted abode.

While in Portland, I stayed with some former StAP neighbors who moved a year or so ago to the great northwest. They seem to be adjusting well and it was interesting to hear comparisons and contrasts between the two cities. There are many similarities, from the woods culture to the landscape (altho everything is bigger out here, trees, mountains, rivers, traffic jams) but the "Keep Portland Weird" motto is more than a cute slogan, it serves as a kind of bedrock for the way they live. Like they don't put fluoride in their water system - feel it should be a personal choice. So a young couple I visited with a 2 year old was given a prescription from their pediatrician for fluoride to add to their toddler's diet.

They take living seriously and commit deeply to a whatever lifestyle they are currently invested in. Out here is it seems like homelessness is less hard luck fall and more proud choice of many young people who unabashedly approach panhandling with the dedication of any 9-5 office worker. I saw a healthy looking, decently dressed 20-something with a sign that read, "Hungry - $2.50 will buy me breakfast, $5 lunch." Street musicians position themselves next to merge lanes to better work the parking lot that rush hour always seems to bring to the major roads and highways. You have to admire those kinds of opportunistic and user-friendly attitudes, it generates more of a relational feel to the transaction, like visiting a well-known local merchant.

As some of you may know, Portland froze it's city boundaries a number of years ago to prevent sprawl, so housing in the city is fairly expensive and difficult to find. The vacancy rate for rentals is 3%, 2nd in the nation after NYC, I believe. That means lots of remodeling and perhaps some flexibility in how many structures you can build on your property. My daughter rented a house with friends this spring and when she returned for school the landlord had basically added another house to the lot. I assume it's legal and the vacancy rate may explain why.

All in all, a very interesting mix of things. They have great transportation choices, but the Amtrak train I'm on from Portland to Seattle doesn't stop at the airport. You have to get off a mile or so away and take a cab. If I'm not mistaken, (and please someone correct me if I am) it came about by way of a compromise reached between the city and the cabbies after light rail was built to the airport cutting them out of all those fares. People here consider thoroughly and reach consensus even if to the outside world it doesn't seem to make much sense. Western independence meets left coast sensibilities. You can draw your own conclusions, but the attempt to merge cultural philosophies with business realities is not an easy task and must be done with sensitivity but also with a good dollop of common sense.

Back in our little corner of the world (which has its own idiosyncracies,) the state fair has finally started. I imagine today, Thrift Day I think it's being billed as, is bringing in thousands of eager, hungry visitors to our neighborhood. I know many people try to leave each year to avoid the crush, but I've always enjoyed it. We've gotten more than one new neighbor because they stumbled into our community on their way to the Great Minnesota Get-together. Like any party, it's always nice when the last guest is gone and you can get back to your routine, but I say enjoy the fun while its here and be good hosts, its one of those things that makes us unique and keeps us vital.

D12 - the council is having their annual Town Meeting on September 26 from 6-8pm at Luther Sem's new coffee shop in the Olson Campus Center. It's a great chance to talk to your elected officials and neighbors about anything and everything. Save the date!...also save October 6 for the Home Tour. I know it's secret but word has it they have some neat properties participating this year. Tickets are on sale at Micawber's, the little wine shoppe and the Bibelot or at the D12 office - or online...Corey Dor, an historical and performative (new word for me) investigation of St. Paul's political campaign headquarters, supported by Irrigate and the council, is opening tonight at the Pop-up Gallery on University Avenue next to the Edge Coffeehouse. It runs until Sunday so get on over there. More info on the D12 site...a forum on connecting light rail to our other transit choices will be held at the Hillcrest Community Center next Monday, August 27, from 6-8:30pm. It will be an open dialogue about what's needed and where, so join in and figure out how we can best create multiple ways to get around.

listserv - the endless fascination of the wild turkey has been on full display this past week. Another brood (is there just one?) is making the rounds entertaining (well, to be honest, they can be a bit of a pest) neighbors as they swarm under bird feeders and stir up the pets...speaking of fowl, the Raptor Center wants your help naming their newest patient, a saw-whet owl blind in one eye from a probable collision with a window. Go to their website to weigh in or learn more...Chocolat Celeste is getting in on the State Fair fun by offering chocolate and bacon truffles on a stick. Why not? 651-644-3823.

StAPnotes - Since I've been gone I'm a little out of the loop, but there are some interesting rumors sneaking around that I'm trying to track down to the actual facts. I'll let you know more as things develop.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.