We Dun Been Ta Church..... having experienced an energetic Portland tradition last night for the first time, we joined our good friends Alex and Paul at the Oregon Symphony's Gospel Christmas program at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. What a great time of year to be in any city's downtown area -- with the shoppers, sparkling cold winter nights, and everyone in warm coats, stylish hats, and finger-warming gloves made in China.
We stopped first for Happy Hour at another place we'd not been to yet (you'd think we lived under a rock, for god's sake). Saucebox. A very trendy, cool place filled with sexy wait staff in black t-shirts. Sweet potato spring rolls, spicy cold Chinese noodles, onion burgers, and edamame. Oh, and liquid too -- Sidecars! Then it was off for a leisurely stroll up Portland's trademark downtown street....Broadway. Past the historic Benson Hotel and it's annual giant Christmas gingerbread house and pretty lobby tree, through Nordstrom for expensive lip balm for dry cracked winter lips worn out from kissing, into Banana Republic where I did my best to chat up a nice young salesman, a breeze through Columbia Sportswear's flagship store in which I found no shortage of expensive things I wanted, a quick stop for dessert at Flying Elephant's Deli where I looked for my friend Stephen, and finally to the concert hall.
What the concert lacked in traditional Christmas-type music, it more than made up for in its energy and enthusiasm. The hundred or so vocalists are from quite a number of local churches and provided a performance that would rock anybody's world. They've been doing this with the Oregon Symphony for 11 years now. It was filled with the spice that lacks in many of the circles that I run in -- good old fashioned gospel Christmas music complete with hand-raising, foot-stomping, and worshiping. Praising and hand waving and standing up in appreciation and honor. It was clear that the four of us gays were like fish out of water. Although I did spot a few other typically Portland types -- sort of au natural, funky-hat-wearing, gray-haired, Subaru-driving, recycling sort of folks. I kept saying to myself, "I love this concert but I don't really fit in with the audience." Weird, but true. Everyone looked conservative. And I had to stop counting the number of fake-blonde-bottle-jobs I saw (are their any white women that don't have their hair colored nowadays??). I kept overhearing people around us talking about "praying for this or that," or "what a good job the Lord gave me." And the cross! The giant gold cross that gentle nestled itself between the aging breasts of the mid-50s woman in the top, center row of the chorus -- it kept catching the rays of spotlights just so and beaming itself right into my eye. But I'm just that way. I like things that are out of my element or activities that I'm not typically a part of. Sort of expanding my four walls in that way. It's good for us. To see how the other side lives.
So, it was a blast. A wild, rockin' explosive time of blues combined with gospel backed up with a full symphony and all done in a holiday sort of way.