Like so many adolescents who reached their formative years in an era of grunge, my introduction to Seattle came through music. I first heard its beauty in the voice of Chris Cornell, and I felt its darkness and melancholy in Kurt Cobain’s anguished howl. The city was strangely captivating for a place I’d never been—sparkling blue in summer, misty gray all winter, and the source of so much that channeled my teenage emotions.
There’s a great old episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine—a writer for the J. Peterman catalog—is saddled with a debilitating case of “catalog writer’s block.” The culprit? The troublesome Himalayan walking shoe. Beset with frustration, an exhausted Elaine takes to the streets of New York (to search for a houseguest who has gone missing)—only to find unexpected inspiration in the warmth and comfort around her feet.
On the morning of January 11, I woke to find Portland buried beneath more than a foot of snow. As skiers rejoiced, schools shuttered, and Portlanders collectively expressed their surprise, I pulled on my boots to mark this unusual occasion with a walk through Washington Park. The snow was knee-deep, the firs shrouded in winter white, and the creaking of heavy branches the only sound to be heard.
Perhaps it was what Lisbon had in common with San Francisco that first had me hooked. A majestic suspension bridge painted a familiar shade of international orange? Check. Antique cable cars that rattle and shudder their way up steep city streets? Check. A treacherous position on a fault line, a long and storied seismic history, and one devastating earthquake that nearly burned the city to the ground? Check, check, and check.
In a young nation like the United States, history is not always defined by old age. Harvard, our oldest university, was founded less than four centuries ago in 1636. We ratified our Constitution in 1788, ended our Civil War in 1865, and welcomed our 49th and 50th states just decades ago in 1959. So imagine the wonder of visiting Fes, the oldest imperial city in Morocco founded by Idriss II in 807.