My girlfriend and I drank too much wine at a charity auction in early 2015 and bought a guided trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
I was 60 pounds overweight and knew I’d have to diet like a fiend and start, you know, getting the hell out of my writing room and moving my fat ass around if I didn’t want to die on the tallest free-standing mountain on the planet.
On Thursday, I took a twelve-mile training trek in Portland, Oregon. It was sunny and 77 degrees and relatively dry. But I failed to eat anything before jogging down to the Willamette River and hiking to the highest point in the city, Council Crest. When I got to the top, I thought perhaps I was hallucinating.
Because there, right in front of me, was a sight so surreal I began to doubt my own eyes and ears.
There stood a white piano with a couple of young girls seated on a bench taking turns playing music.
Someone had painted a sign on the piano that read, “Please play me.”
I found out later it was part of an international movement, a kind of art installation piece. Perfect for a city where every other bumper sticker reads, “Keep Portland Weird.”
But you had to be there.
In film class back in college, a professor once said all music goes with all visuals – some better than others. But so help me, this piano music was perfect for Mount Hood and Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens and the coastal mountains behind me. Bicyclists and runners and tourists stopped to take it all in. Staring and smiling.
Ordinarily when I reach the top of the hill, I pull a Chevy Chase. You know, the scene from Vacation. He’s so desperate to get on the road that when he finds his wife taking in a majestic view of the Grand Canyon, our friend Clark Griswold puts his arm around her, gives a couple of quick nods, and then bolts for the family truckster.
But yesterday, there would be no bolting. I had to shoot a video, hang out a little, and pause to smell the roses.
If I die on Mount Kilimanjaro, someone etch this into my tombstone: “He loved Portland.”