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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Portland Impressions

You know when you break up with someone, and at first you know it's the right thing, but the further away from the relationship you get, the more you begin to forget about all the bad things that made the break-up right, and instead you only remember the good things, thinking back nostalgically, sometimes even wishing for a relapse?

Well, that's kind of what I think is happening when people gush themselves over how amazing Portland is. It's cool, don't get me wrong, but I'm not going to gush about it. I like the city, but I can't say I fell in love. And that's because I went there not just to try on, but to consider buying. So I looked at the city as if examining an expensive piece of clothing for loose threads and missing buttons. In other words, I was not blind to the bad.

Having said that, I did have a good time on my trip, was impressed by Lewis & Clark law school and many things about the city, and I think Ian and I would be able to move there and be happy. It would take some adjustment, as it would moving to any place, but my impression is that Portland would fit us better than Salt Lake. I just think love is something that will need to develop over time.

There are several things that really impressed me about Portland. For instance, everything is SO green. Not just environmentally speaking, but there are lots of trees and moss growing everywhere.







The air has a remarkably fresh and clean quality that I remember experiencing in Salt Lake when I was a child, but rarely since. Salt Lake's air quality is truly terrible much of the time. It hardly rains there, everyone drives cars, and there are several oil refineries gunking up the air. It is refreshing to go outside and really be able to breathe in Portland.


It is also also refreshing to be able to go to an adult bar and have an adult drink without having to play the private club game. My newly found friend and I went to the Urban Farmer, a completely gorgeous little bar on the 8th floor of The Nines hotel.
Here we had some Moonshine. Yes, real Moonshine. It was kind of like a white whiskey with a sweet edge. I enjoyed it very much. The bartenders were incredibly friendly, even offering us a small shot of Moonshine before we committed to the drink.

That's another thing that impressed me about Portland: people are very friendly. It's not the creepy kind of midwest friendly where random people say hi to you on the street, but when you are actually interacting with someone at a restaurant, convenience store, bookstore, hotel, bar -- wherever -- the people are very friendly, and don't give you the impression that they hate their jobs or that serving you is an inconvenience for them. Even more, they ask you how your day is going or what brings you to Portland, and I can tell that they really care to know and aren't just humoring you. I know, cause I have a bullshit small talk filter built into my social sensibilities.
By the way, that picture up there is Powell's famous City of Books bookstore. It is aptly named, as there is room for at least 5 bookstores inside. It's hard to tell from the outside, but it is possible to get lost in there. I found myself so overwhelmed with the number of choices that I was completely unable to shop for a book, and I did try on two separate occasions. Ultimately, I bought a book at a Powell's mini-store in the Portland airport. Sometimes choices are easier when options are fewer.

Lewis & Clark reminds me of Utah's Snowbird ski resort during the springtime. It has that ski lodge type of feel externally, with the cement buildings like those at snowbird, and it's completely surrounded by trees. In fact, the law school sits on the edge of the Tryon Park, a huge forest replete with hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. The students say this is a great place to go blow off some steam when you're stressed during the semester.


While the buildings look a little dark and depressing on the outside, they are actually quite lovely inside. They are light, airy, woody, and updated. The faculty seem very approachable and caring. The professor who taught my mock course on the subject of valuation in the area of tax law seemed funny and unintimidating, in contrast to the scary mean professors of The Paper Chase and Legally Blonde.


One cool thing is that the law school is equipped with showers and dryers, so if you ride your bike to school in the rain, you can throw your clothes in the dryer and have a shower before heading to class.


One downside to Portland: It's quite closed-in compared to Salt Lake (though it's not as bad as Seattle). You can't really climb on top of something and be able to look out on the whole city like you can in Salt Lake. There are too many hills and trees for that.

But the public transportation is great in Portland, whereas it's practically useless in Salt Lake. Portland's city blocks are also smaller than Salt Lake's, so the city is very walkable. I think I should be able to get by in Portland without having to use my car much. And if I do, I will never have to pump my own gas again, since it's illegal to do so in Oregon.

Portland's Farmer's Markets also put Salt Lake's to shame, and there is no sales tax in Oregon. Huzzah! You can go in a store and know that the sticker price is what you pay; no more mentally figuring 6-7%.

Two things happened in Portland that I took as signs that moving to Portland would be a good choice:

1) The Portland Timbers have just been announced as officially earning a Major League Soccer franchise, effective 2011. Ian and I have been fans of MLS since the Real Salt Lake entered the scene, and we were a little bummed out to be moving to a town without a team. The Timbers were minor league soccer, so we told ourselves that would be ok, but it seems with this announcement the heathen gods are telling us we should choose Portland. The only problem will be who to cheer for when RSL comes to town to play Portland. Red RSL sweaters and green Portland scarves, perhaps?

2) I had a conversation with a local Portlander in a delightful coffee shop near the Saturday Market (it was the only good cup of coffee I had in Portland, which was a relief, and it was the only conversation I had with a Portlander who didn't completely gush about the city). During the conversation, he said he had spent some time living in Turkey, and I said I had spent some time living in Germany, and that I really loved Doener Kababs (the Turkish version of gyros; if you ever go to Europe, please try these, they are incomparable). Then he told me a Doener shop just opened downtown, and I said that sealed the deal, I should come to Portland just for that. And I'm almost completely serious when I say that.

So I guess I did end up gushing about Portland after all. Ok, so, yeah, it's really great. I'm about 85% sure we will be going there for law school. I'm visiting Sacramento and UC Davis in 2 weeks, and will know for sure after that. Stay tuned.







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16 comments:

Claire said...

Well, good for you, sister. That was a lovely little portrait of Portland in a nutshell.

I've long desired a trip to Portland, and not just because I enjoy moss and gushing about environmentally responsible urban climes. Powell's is a sort of mecca for me, and I fully intend to visit it one day soon.

My ex, Venessa The Crazy, was from Portland, but please don't hold that against it. I'm sure it had no idea what it had produced until it was far too late.

Also, one small note in defense of Midwestern Friendliness: it may seem creepy, but chances are, we like you. We like you already. Need a lift to the bus station, total stranger? Hop in, it's on my way. Need a buck for the soda machine? Sure thing, chief. And, yes, we will say "hi" to you, because that's the way we were raised, and it's one of those fragments left from an age where all the men wore hats and nobody spat on the sidewalk.

The ironic flipside to this, of course, is our sometimes total contempt for people we already know. I guess Midwest Nice is different from Minnesota or Portland Nice in that we assume we like you, but once we get to know you, act like we hate you.

Reading about your impending voyage into law makes me want to have an adventure of my own. Perhaps it's time I go back to get that linguistics degree I'm always carrying on about.

Thanks for sharing, and for the inspiration!

FrankandMary said...

At first I thought this entry was straight-up telling me you broke up with the great guy, and I was more pissed than I should have been considering, hey, I don't really know you ;-0.
I get what you are saying here. A friend of mine vacationed in Portland twice and the second year came back saying that was were they'd be looking for a home. What?
She lived in sunny California and had a great job, so did her husband. No no, she and her husband fell in love with Portland. I did gently suggest to her that since at home she worked a lot, the draw of Portland may have partly been the free time & fun, that if she was having in Cali, she'd enjoy just as much.
~Mary

B.R. said...

Dear Sra:

Congratulations! I am convinced the cleanliness and quietude of the place will be most conducive to your studies and life.
I didn't fall in love with Portland till after my first visit.
I have kept going since.
Apropos, that first pic of Portland is almost the same as one we took a while back.
I enjoyed your post. It's informed, careful, the opposite of impulsive: in short it reflects careful consideration. It made me reminisce re: things Portland.
An exciting chapter in your life is about to start for you and we're rooting for you.
Cheers.

Sra said...

Claire: Right, I forgot that I have several Ohioans and a few other random midwesterners who read my blog... so, er... there's nothing wrong with your creepy, I mean, completely charming style of friendliness... Yeah. ;)

Personally, I think you would make a great linguist. I think I have a natural talent for language-related things, but I suspect you might have it more so than I. But as a warning, unless you are going to pursue an academic career, or if you are interested in computational linguistics (human language replication with computers), there's not much of a clear career-path with a linguistics degree. Not that that should stop you from doing it!

Mary: When I read through the post before publishing, I wondered if that opening paragraph might be misleading. I think my relationship with Ian is pretty darn stable. I'm betting we'll even make it out of the ringer of law school intact.

B.R.: Thanks very much. I'm really excited to enter this new chapter of life. The more I've let my trip marinate mentally, the more convinced I am that this is going to be ok. I remarked to Ian how happy I felt while in Portland, in contrast to how I usually feel in Salt Lake, and I think a lot of that has to do with the culture. Over there I feel like I'm not an unusual person, whereas here I feel like I have to repress part of myself a lot. Not that I don't love Salt Lake, but I think living in a place more like me will be more rewarding.

Miss Pants said...

Wow, you had an excellent trip!

My guy visited Portland a few months ago and fell in love...we've talked about moving there, but probably not for a few years. I need to get my butt there and see what I think!

It's funny how living someplace makes you adjust to everything...moving to SLC from the bay area, it drove me INSANE that there were no hills here. Sure, there are glorious, enormous mountains (that are gorgeous and I've grown to love) but I missed seeing green everywhere and not always being able to see EVERYWHERE. Well, at least not being able to see everywhere when the air quality is decent, which is an entirely different SLC rant.

SoMi's Nilsa said...

Ok, first, I'm going to have to respectfully DISAGREE about your jab about Midwesterners. I think we're a very genuine bunch. Definitely different than the west coast kindness, but far from creepy. =)

And second, it's cool that you seem to have gotten a pretty good feel for Portland. Sounds like the people there are REAL and not afraid to share a little bit of themselves (in an uncreepy way, of course) with a potential citizen. Seems to me, that would be a great place to plant yourself for a few years.

jess said...

wow, i also love MLS!! cool! i didn't know portland was getting a team.

i love the maxx train in portland.

i love powell's.

there are mountains there, even though they are kinda far away.

sov said...

I'm from the Midwest, born and raised. We're all a bunch of dicks.

Look at all the green stuff in those pictures! Look at all of that water! I miss water. I don't miss green stuff though, because it makes me sneeze.

I think Portland will be a good fit for you. It feels a little like Sugarhouse, only a lot bigger. Well... that's not exactly right either. Seattle feels like Sugar House. Portland doesn't feel like Salt Lake though, that's for sure. You know what I mean.

Erin said...

Here's a blog you might like. She posts a lot of green around Portland: http://www.nestmaker.com/

Sounds like a great trip! My ex and I always talked about moving there. But I am not at all nostalgic for the ex or our plan of moving there now that I am here!

Sra said...

Pants: I didn't grow to truly appreciate Salt Lake's mountains until recent years. After hiking Mt. Olympus last year, every time I see the mountains I stare in awe. That's no exaggeration. I will miss them the most when I leave Utah. But at least Portland has hills, and mountains an hour's drive away or so. (Volcanic mountains at that - score!)

Nilsa: When my car broke down in Illinois on a cross-country roadtrip, I was slightly taken aback when the mechanics presented my tripmate and I with a flower while we waited. Creepy to me, because it's very different from how things are out west, but nice, yes. :)

Sov: No, Portland doesn't feel like Salt Lake. It is a slightly alien land that will take getting used to, but culture wise it is a better fit for me.

Erin: Thanks for the link, I've been enjoying her pictures. The coast has so much bizarre plant life that fascinates me.

natabird said...

I've never been to Portland, but it sounds great. I'm glad you liked it and were able to look at the good and the bad. The park/forest around the law school sounds awesome. I wish I had that option near my workplace. Good luck making your decision.

The Over-Thinker said...

Jeez--this is so GREAT. I am so happy for you that things are coming together. And to have them come together near copious amounts of book AND moonshine? Kismet.

The Over-Thinker said...

Jeez--this is so GREAT. I am so happy for you that things are coming together. And to have them come together near copious amounts of book AND moonshine? Kismet.

Erin said...

Here's a blog you might like. She posts a lot of green around Portland: http://www.nestmaker.com/

Sounds like a great trip! My ex and I always talked about moving there. But I am not at all nostalgic for the ex or our plan of moving there now that I am here!

SoMi's Nilsa said...

Ok, first, I'm going to have to respectfully DISAGREE about your jab about Midwesterners. I think we're a very genuine bunch. Definitely different than the west coast kindness, but far from creepy. =)

And second, it's cool that you seem to have gotten a pretty good feel for Portland. Sounds like the people there are REAL and not afraid to share a little bit of themselves (in an uncreepy way, of course) with a potential citizen. Seems to me, that would be a great place to plant yourself for a few years.

Sra said...

Claire: Right, I forgot that I have several Ohioans and a few other random midwesterners who read my blog... so, er... there's nothing wrong with your creepy, I mean, completely charming style of friendliness... Yeah. ;)

Personally, I think you would make a great linguist. I think I have a natural talent for language-related things, but I suspect you might have it more so than I. But as a warning, unless you are going to pursue an academic career, or if you are interested in computational linguistics (human language replication with computers), there's not much of a clear career-path with a linguistics degree. Not that that should stop you from doing it!

Mary: When I read through the post before publishing, I wondered if that opening paragraph might be misleading. I think my relationship with Ian is pretty darn stable. I'm betting we'll even make it out of the ringer of law school intact.

B.R.: Thanks very much. I'm really excited to enter this new chapter of life. The more I've let my trip marinate mentally, the more convinced I am that this is going to be ok. I remarked to Ian how happy I felt while in Portland, in contrast to how I usually feel in Salt Lake, and I think a lot of that has to do with the culture. Over there I feel like I'm not an unusual person, whereas here I feel like I have to repress part of myself a lot. Not that I don't love Salt Lake, but I think living in a place more like me will be more rewarding.

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