Just about everybody plans to move to Portland Oregon, so it seems. But I must tell you something up front, from the beginning. Carefully think about this before you start packing. Remember that it is always raining in Portland, Oregon.
We recently moved there ourselves, into our newly acquired 100 year old condo in North West Portland, walking distance to just about everything. We don't own a car, but instead use public transportation or our bicycles. Because we are “Honored Citizens” meaning we are older than 65 it costs us $1.00 to take the Max train to the airport. Streets are well marked for bicycles and we can safely use them to go shopping, to the library, the hardware store. Buses are well managed and comfortable. The streetcar runs around the downtown area and is very dependable.On those very unusual times when we want a car, we just rent.
People in Portland are young at heart, eclectic and tend to be environmentally sensitive. There is a lot of creativity and a great number of people who have chosen the entrepreneurial route, and who are designing and running very interesting small businesses. They are easy to meet and tend to remember your name the next time that they see you.
I expected to have so many young people dismiss us from the conversation because of our age, but thus far, this is not what has happened. We join conversations that are lively and interesting, and have made friends from the age of 30 and upward thus far into the 70s, with ease. People see and greet you. Cars stop for EVERYBODY to cross the street, and not just when there is a red light. When we first arrived, we just stood there in disbelief at a street corner when cars stopped to let us cross even when there was no STOP sign. My husband and I have decided that when we go back to the East Coast, our biggest danger is that we will forget that cars don’t stop for pedestrians and are likely to be hit.
Oregonians converse about many things with a calmness that just amazes me. They have a habit of allowing people to finish their sentences before replying. In indoor environments, they speak in relatively quiet voices. I have a favorite coffee shop that I visit and enjoy sitting there listening to calm low toned voices speaking with each other, avoiding shouting and sharp, disruptive tones. It reminds me of places like cafes in Paris and small shops in Sweden. Stores and restaurants in Portland still have excellent service, much like the US had in the late 1950’s. Clerks come up and ask us if we need any help, and actually provide assistance when asked for it. Waiters check to ensure that we got what we ordered before taking off to the kitchen. This is happening so consistently that we have finally decided that we are not confronting aberrations, but truly a different culture.
It is not without its problems, of course. Homeless persons are found here, as they are across America. Poverty is a problem especially in our newly formed 1% economy. Food lines for hungry people can be long. There are numerous opportunities to volunteer and help out. Volunteerism is strong out here.
I hope that this delightful place where the trees are hundreds of years old and have enormous diversity of leafage, even on city streets, survives the ongoing transition we witness. We see cranes and new development everywhere. Urban housing boards are arguing with developers over how high buildings can be, and how close to the road, how sustainable the building should be, debating building construction environmental definitions and classifications. It is not clear to me how long Portland can survive this onslaught of construction and new development, but time will tell.
Some of the new developments that transitioned old industrial areas to new living and shopping arrangements are truly marvelous. They are architecturally pretty and have used old structures to the max. Newly designed buildings fit beautifully with the old, and blend well into very lovely neighborhoods with good character. Excellent restaurants abound. The food is very fresh, organic and delicious.