This is what I learned about Portland, Oregon over these last couple days.
First? Portland is obsessed with being Portland. No kidding, it's like the only thing Portland talks about. No matter what subject you bring up, Portland will trump your story with how Portland does it better.
“What's that? You saw a documentary about free-range chickens? That's neat. My friend from Portland runs a free-range chicken farm on top of a 13 story building, in Portland.”
“Awww, you made a home brew? That's adorable. My cousin in Portland brews a rosie amber pilsner using home-grown yeast scraped from the feet of Portlanders. You should totally try it.”
“Oh, you bought a book somewhere? That's awful. Portland has the best bookstore in the Universe. It's so big it has a functional wishing well... and a unicorn...and a secret vortex to another dimension... and socialized medicine. It's amaaaazing. I pretty much only buy books in Portland.”
This odd Portland-centeredness should be annoying, but it's really not. The truth is, in a matter of hours you'll be doing the same thing as you rave about how the soft-shell crab you plucked off a food truck was “the BEST on the PLANET” or the tabouli salad you had for lunch was “like, O.M.G. Fresh”. You will start to believe, as the Portlanders do, that everything is better in Stumptown.
But just as you're on the verge of calling a realtor and a moving company, you'll notice that people in Portland only wear black and dark black. And sometimes grey. If you wear anything other than black or black or maybe gray, everyone will know you're not from these parts. And let me warn you; If you wear red jeans in Portland, waiters in trendy restaurants will ignore you for an extra 10 minutes and then they will speak to you as if you don't know how to read. People will point and stare. A guy will shout “WELCOME TO PORTLAND!” from his car window as he drives past. But you have to remember, these people have never seen the sun. Treat them with Grace. They exist in the gloomy cloud cover of a colorless world. It's not their fault.
Despite their lack of appreciation for the full spectrum of the rainbow, I feel like Portland is the friendliest city I have ever stepped foot in. I don't know what you've heard, but they really won't damn you to hell for eating bologna on non-sprouted white bread. Portlanders struck up conversations with us on the street. They helped us navigate the MAX (light-rail) system. They encouraged us to fit in by gently reminding us that “Um. People don't use umbrellas around here.” And they freely opened doors to welcome us out of the rain.
Oh, yeah. Portland just loves to talk about rain. And when they did, we were like, “Rain? Oh, Portland. You're silly. In Costa Rica, the rain is like the sky opening up and trying to drown you in a vertical river.” And then we'd chuckle a little, like condescending douchebags, “You call this rain? That is so cute.”
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It's quirky and clean and easy to navigate, and whether you like a little bit of pretentious hipster with your food-truck burrito, or not, Portland is a charming big, little city. I think it just became one of my top 3 favorite cities.
What's your favorite city and why?