"Oregon almost feels like a foreign country. Florida, Ohio, Michigan--the states where I've spent most of my life are vastly diffferent from each other but also similar in their mostly flat landscape. Portland is dramatically hilly and that makes the surrounding area appear unlike anywhere I've lived (in recent memory anyway, since I was born here after all). Beyond that everything feels smaller than in the expanses of middle America--the roads, the shopping centers, the subdivisions, the houses It reminds me of someplace in Europe or Japan--Australia really comes to mind."
--from my pen & paper journal, Tuesday, December 27, 2011
For the last two years our visits to Portland were so short that we spent most of the time holed up in Carol's apartment. Thursday and Friday were spent getting relaxing and getting ready for the big Saipan Thanksgiving feast. Sabbath there was a brief excursion to church, and that was about it. Sunday morning we'd be back on a plane headed home. But this time, with almost all full week at our disposal, we are able to get out, and actually get a sense of Portland, Oregon.
Though this is the city where I was born, and the region where I spent the first eight years or so of my life, Oregon feels distinctly exotic.
|A Hawthorne district streetscape (again lifted from Google Images)|
The state in general, and the city in particular has a reputation for being more than a little bohemian. Stereotypical Portland is a hippie retreat, a redoubt of artisnal living. It is eco-conscious, politically liberal, and femnist friendly. The men wear full beards, suspenders and skinny jeans, the women dreadlocks, peasant dresses and thrift store accessories. This is the Portland parodied in the IFC hit series Portlandia. (Portlandia was my original title for this blog, but it just felt too derivative). During our week I definitely got the sense of the orgins of this stereotype. I found it particularly interesting that this Portlander persona seemed to span the generations. Where we live the granola lifestyle is largely the province of young adults--college students, but not so in Portland. Portland remains the only place where I've seen more than once, women well into their sixties and older dressed like young hipsters--and pulling it off too!
Of course, like all stereotypes, this picture of Oregon is limiting and poorly reflects the rich diversity of people, viewpoints, and culture to be found in the state. Nonetheless, I enjoyed getting a taste of Port Land. Given, that Babs and I are a little bohemian ourselves we loved the vibe.
I wouldn't mind living there if not for the constant rain, and the vaguely somber feel of the place that has nothing to do with the it's gentle hippie folk and everything to do with dark memories from my earliest days there. While Oregon may not be our home, its very "foreign-ness" makes it a place where I always feel at home.