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EXPLAINING PORTLAND ON THE ROAD

Dreams Of Portland And St. Francis.

Dreams Of Portland And St. Francis.

Once you leave Oregon and meet others in your travels they’ll ask where you’re from.

When you say Portland, two things happen.

1. The questioner takes a deep breath.

2. They smile.

To outsiders Portland is magic.

It’s Portlandia, the Portland Building, Bridge City. It’s hipsters, craft beer, coffee. It’s food carts, vintage clothes, Powells Books.It’s NW Portland, the Pearl, SE, and start-ups.

Everyone knows that.

People moving here expect one thing and get another. Lots of people.

The dream of Portland isn’t for a disconnected audience to sit and watch. Portland makes you take part, get up and go out instead of sitting by the window waiting for a pink haired woman to walk by so you can say, “I love Portland.”

The image of a unicyclist playing a flaming bagpipe in front of a Keep Portland Weird sign isn’t the Portland you get when you move here.

Instead you get a city full of the same grit as every other city. It’s just better grit.

Eventually you’ll have to explain Portland, or try to.

When that happens, start with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers make Portland a major league city. The Timbers do their part on the pitch, but calling soccer Major League Soccer doesn’t make it a major league sport.

You can’t brag about an NFL team, or MLB team. Or NHL.

Portland has the NBA and that’s major enough.

If the person you’re talking to comes from Cleveland or Pittsburgh or Milwaukee get ready to hear rust belt smack, the toughness of their cities, and the work ethic.

You’ll need to remind them you’re from Portland, not Los Angeles. Your city is surrounded by mountains and rivers and more greenery than they’ve ever seen. All they’ve seen is TV.

Tell them Portland wants to maintain population growth. Sure traffic builds up at rush hour. It happens when the freeways are two or three lanes instead of five or six going one way.

Move to Portland and work on your patience.

When you get that deep breath from someone who hears you’re from Portland, remind them it’s not Bong City.

Every other house isn’t a grow house. Every other store front isn’t a weed front. Their city has more marijuana, just not as cultivated as Portland.

About that smile after the deep breath? Get used to it. The Portland image makes outsiders high the way college kids in the 70’s bought oregano from unscrupulous dealers and convinced themselves it was the real deal.

If you want to see the real Portland head out to MLK and Lombard. Cruise Columbia Way out past the airport.

For every start up and home based business there’s a major business filling warehouses full of product being shipped by rail, truck, or air.

For every leisure seeking baby boomer there’s a ship load of containers, a boat load of cars, entering the Port of Portland destined for elsewhere.

Others may not want to hear about that Portland but you can look them straight in the eye and know your city is as hardcore as theirs.

It’s Portland as an equal and so much more.

About David Gillaspie
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