Some time ago, I took a quiz on the internet entitled What city should you live in? (here) (this, my friends, is the real reason I never get anything done; I am too busy frittering time away on silly quizzes).
Anyway, I got…..Portland. Then I watched the TV show Portlandia and have been keen to visit ever since.
A man I met in my first hour here told me how he grew up in a small community in California and never really fit in, never really belonged, until he came to Portland and knew he’d found his home. This was a story that was repeated in one form or another time and time again by people I spoke to who had made a choice to come and live in Portland.
And I know exactly how that feels, being the child of a small suburban hellhole in the south of England. I still remember arriving in London, a lifetime ago, and thinking ‘this is it I’m amongst my people now’. And London can’t even begin to compare with Portland on freedom of expression and acceptance of all things ‘different’.
There are pockets of London where people go and live (or simply hang out if they can’t afford the rents in these districts) like Shoreditch and Hackney, where they feel there is the freedom to be different. However often this difference just comes with another set of rules, and if you don’t follow them you won’t fit in there either.
In Portland the rules are largely absent.
The keep Portland Weird slogan was originally an idea to boost businesses, based on a similar one in Austin, Texas. Some argue that the motto encourages people to be underachievers. I personally have no problem with underachieving; I look at it less as underachieving and more as avoiding the whole Capitalist ‘get a good job so you can become a good consumer’ mantra.
An amazing number of people I met here came originally from California and at first I found that strange. Why would people choose to give up the wonderful Californian sunshine to come and live in a place where it rains for nine months of the year? However after just four days here I got it totally. For many people, Portland offers the space to express themselves however they want and the freedom to be who they want to be, without feeling judged by those around them.