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.
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.
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.
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.
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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