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Life long learners need classes to learn Portland?


A New York man moved to Portland in his fifties. He returns to The City every year to find something new.

“Just walk around the financial district in lower Manhattan and you can read the history of the area on the sidewalk,” he said. “I miss that in Portland.”

So Portland doesn’t have history sidewalks?

Take a walk along the sea wall on Waterfront Park and read the news.

Walk through town and read history bolted to buildings.

Life long learners find a way. Instead of spoon-feeding citizens and visitors, Portland gives just enough to make you seek more.

And who doesn’t want more? Learning from where you live today ought to be a goal. The more you know, the better off you are.

If you want to be more than you’ve been, or just a little better than yesterday, start now.

The New York man knows his old city better than Portland. Either he’s living in the past, or planning a move back to his favorite rat race.

It’s okay to call NYC a rat race because Portland has enough rats of its own. No urban center is rat free, especially if they’re near water.

People from bigger cities see Portland as a small part of what they’re used to the same way small town people see it as huge. Overwhelming. Frightening. Bigger rats.

Learn Portland: If you look up at a building no one will cut your throat.

It’s a friendly city like that, not slasher central. Besides, Portland buildings aren’t that tall.

If height fascinates you, look up from a block away, not right underneath.

And don’t freeze up and just stand there. Friendly Portland may ask if they can help if you look in distress.

When you need help, Portland answers. This isn’t a big apple that bites back.

Learn Portland: Two Portlands.

Portland and East Portland used to be two different cities, which might surprise newcomers to the east side today.

The modern eastie thinks the sun rises and sets on their little beer garden corner, which isn’t a bad thought. It builds a sense of community no matter how misguided they might be.

Long time eastsiders know the value of their neighborhoods. They can claim the city without moving to the suburbs, but the east side still feels too suburban.

City living means apartments and hassles and navigating street people and no car; typical suburban living means a house, yard, cat, dog, kids, and a driveway full of cars.

Check the parking jams on both sides. Portland could use a car-free zone. I nominate NW 23rd.

Learn Portland: It’s the livability, stupid.

People move to Portland for the gains.

They lose all of their baggage, their SoCal sunshine, their southern superiority, their mid-western flyover phobias.

They move to Portland and become Portland. The process takes about a month.

The west side holds architectural attention, big chain stores, and the West Hills.

It’s filled up with the Portland Art Museum, Oregon Historical Society, Portland State University, all worth a trip downtown.

That’s the city part of Portland.

The east side is the Oregon part of Portland. Different style, different attitude, real neighborhoods like Sellwood and Brooklyn.

Real neighbors.

Closer to Idaho.

Learn Portland: Big life and small life.

Show up big in Portland and move to the head of the class.

Buy a west hills mansion and start hosting catered events.

Give money to the right causes, volunteer at the right places, get your picture in the society page holding a glass of wine next to your fashionable attired wife.

The next thing you know you’ve got a special membership to the Multnomah Athletic Club and you’re as big time as you’ve ever been.

Show up small in Portland and you’ll feel Portland love.

Fall in with the recycle, re-use, re-purpose crowd and start making everyday things into art pieces.

Use your secret vision to create art for everyday purpose, like a dining room table, or the best outdoor space in town.

Small Portland is a unique place occupied by the road less taken people.

Big Portland is a stepping stone for climbers on the way up, along with professional navigators who know they’ll never find a better place.

Big or small, you’ll find a fit in Portland. Just be sure you know what you’re looking for, because you’ll get it.

Show up with too much uncertainty and you’ll learn Portland the hard way, and that’s not why anyone comes around here.

About David Gillaspie
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