The Dream of the 90s is Alive in…..

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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.

Portland Saturday market (also open on Sunday).  I enjoyed a particularly great conversation with Eric the tie-dye man (another California to Portland escapee) and another favourite was a woman selling jewellery made from up-cycled guitar strings

Portland Saturday market (also open on Sunday). I enjoyed a particularly great conversation with Eric the tie-dye man (another California to Portland escapee) and another favourite was a woman selling jewellery made from up-cycled guitar strings

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 amazing Voodoo donuts.  I never saw a queue less than an hour long outside the shop; they tell me 10-11pm is the quiet time.  Mostly Portland based, they have just opened a store in Denver.  I'm sure it's just coincidence that they're expanding into the places where marijuana is legal

The amazing Voodoo donuts. I never saw a queue less than an hour long outside the shop; they tell me 10-11pm is the quiet time. Mostly Portland based, they have just opened a store in Denver. I’m sure it’s just coincidence that they’re expanding into the places where marijuana is legal

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Portland bears the unofficial motto Keep Portland Weird, and I would support that.

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.IMG_3256

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.

The restaurant long since closed down but the sign remains so that schoolboys (or British people) can giggle over a sign saying Hung far low

The restaurant long since closed down but the sign remains so that schoolboys (or British people) can giggle over a sign saying Hung far low

Many, many independent breweries to visit; Portland is a beer-lovers paradise

Many, many independent breweries to visit; Portland is a beer-lovers paradise

There's still a queue at Voodoo donuts.  Blue Star are a good alternative if (like me) you refuse to queue for your food

There’s still a queue at Voodoo donuts. Blue Star are a good alternative if (like me) you refuse to queue for your food

No shortage of green spaces.  This is the Chinese garden.  There is a Japanese garden as well; I didn't go there.

No shortage of green spaces. This is the Chinese garden. There is a Japanese garden as well; I didn’t go there.

13 replies »

  1. well, took the quiz, apparently I’m supposed to live in Paris. Too bad I never really paid attention in French class… Loving the trip, hoping some donuts might fly my way!

    • I’m not sure the quiz is too scientific but Paris is a cool result. Donuts is one of the things Portland is famous for, but really the last thing I need is an addiction to another sugary baked item. I didn’t go to Voodoo because the queues are ridiculous.

    • Yes along with all the Californians living the dream in Portland, I also found a few Portlanders looking to leave. They weren’t telling me where they were planning on going.

  2. So much good about this! I love your articulate explanation of Portland as a haven for people who don’t quite fit in other places — most people write about Portland with this “obviously it’s cool because it’s cool” kind of tone, and I appreciate your insight here. Also, Voodoo Donuts sounds like it’s got a great (purely coincidental, I’m sure) strategy of expanding into those more herbally liberal states 😛

    • Thank you 🙂 I always had trouble finding somewhere to ‘fit in’ and that’s why I like places full of other outsiders. Like I”m still looking for my tribe.
      I never did go to the donut place. Really life is too short to queue for an hour or more for food.

  3. I’m dying to visit Portland!!! I’m from Fort Collins, CO, and I’ve heard a few people compare those 2 cities in terms of sustainability and eco-friendliness, beer, & small businesses. Seems like a GREAT place. I’m sure I would fall in love. Plus Portlandia cracks me up!

    • Yeah I love that show too. Portland was a very easy place to be. They say it’s got too expensive now so Portlanders are looking for somewhere else to move to. So look out, it might be Fort Collins.

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