Portland. Portlandia. The Rose City. Mecca for foodies and green-living gurus. I’ve been here for nine months now and a lot of my friends back home have asked me what life is like here.
Portland is a destination city for many. They’re drawn to the Pacific Northwest for its nature, lifestyle, world-renown food, sustainable living and the local arts and entertainment. In fact, according to United Van Lines’ annual migration study, out of all the people in the US who moved out of their own state, most of them came to Oregon.
So what’s so great about this city? I’ll tell you.
It’s green. This place is crazy green. There’s electric car plug-ins everywhere, I’ve never seen so many Teslas in my life and trying to dispose of anything requires a certificate of mastery. There’s trash, then there’s glass, paper, compost and about a zillion more different choices. I swear whenever I want to throw something away, I practically have a panic attack because I’m not always certain what bins to put my items in.
And the people here are so militant about it, part of me wonders if the Recycling Police are going to pop out of one of the bins when I put my used, biodegradable paper in the recycling. (There aren’t really police, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I set off some sensors for a recycling faux pas.)
The nature here is ridiculous. I told you earlier about hiking and have since gone on a few other trips. It’s called the Rose City for a reason, there are roses, tulips and daffodils and other types of blooms all over and because it’s so moist, the lush vegetation is seemingly everywhere.
Slower pace. Whoa do these people move slow. They drive the speed limit (wha???) and checking out at the grocery store is quite the process. It starts off innocently enough, the cashier asks me 1) How may day is going. Then it gets Portlandy and she’ll ask 2) What meal I’m planning to cook with my items, which is followed by commentary on my planned meal 3) She’ll either ask about my child or start telling me something irrelevant about her life.
It was highly annoying when I first got here because I just wanted to get my food and get the <bleep> out of the store because, who knew how long my 3-year-old’s good mood would last. Not to mention, you don’t even know me, Mrs. Cashier! I know that’s the Chicago in me coming out, but even growing up in Kansas, the cashiers didn’t talk to you this much. And when I lived in Houston, they didn’t chat it up like this either. I used to respond curtly to speed things along, but now I understand that’s highly offensive here, so I press forward with the answers and wearing what I’m sure is a scary/crazy smile.
One cool thing about the slower pace is that my husband is home astronomically early most nights. Super long office hours are less prevalent here. In Chicago he’d leave around 6 a.m. and come home around 7 p.m. on a good day. Those good days were few and far between. Now he’s often home by 5:30 p.m. For the first few months of these “early arrivals” we’d stay up late enjoying our evenings as a whole family. Then Hubby and I fell into a rhythm and now it’s funny for me to see my 6 year old get upset when he finds out his dad has to work “late” and won’t be home until 7 p.m.
Food, glorious food. Portland has garnered a reputation as one of America’s foodie capitals and it’s a reputation that’s so well-deserved. The farm-to-table movement is big and the inventiveness regarding food makes eating an expression of art. I don’t believe I’ve had a bad meal here. I’ve had meals that I didn’t care for, but they weren’t bad. And the good food isn’t just at fancy places, it’s in your neighborhood dive bar, and the delectable and thriving food truck scene.
Ride or Die. The bike culture here is huge, there’s bike paths to everywhere, bike lanes on the roadways and always a lot of people walking around wearing spandex and bike helmets. It’s really cool, but I’m not used to sharing the road with cyclists. When I we first got here, I was convinced I was going to kill one of them, especially when trying to make a right turn. Thankfully, I’m much better now.
Ps & Qs. People here have manners. At first I thought Portland was the nicest place on Earth, but I’ve figured out that really, it’s that they’re big on manners. Men and women hold doors open for you, there’s a lot of please and thank yous, and the driving. Oh the driving. People let you into their lane when you want to get over, no one wants to “go first” at a four-way stop. It *is* like in the TV show Portlandia, “no you go … no you go!”
It’s just as weird as they say. The city’s unofficial motto is Keep Portland Weird and to Portland I say: Job well done. I’ve told you guys about some of the strange happenings, like the stripping chipmunk. But there’s so many wonky creative types here. Some folks decorate their cars, and I’m not talking a spray-painted bald eagle on pick-up truck. A better example is a girl in my neighborhood with aquamarine hair who drives a Pepto-Bismol pink jalopy and inside it are several naked barbie dolls. Some of the dolls are hanging by a noose. My nanny told me about a car with a mannequin leg perched atop its roof like a dorsal fin. The list of weird-isms is too long to count, but they’re fun to see. It’s definitely a creative space where people proudly floss their sleeves of tattoos and brightly colored and/or asymmetrical and/or matted hair.
So those are pretty much my view of this town’s major highlights. I have to admit that things haven’t been all rosy for us in the Rose City, but that’s a different post for a different day. Overall Portland has been enriching for our family and I’m looking forward to more adventures.
*Family portrait by Trista Page.