Portland, part 1: "Rain"
Updated: Nov 28, 2019
"Kids don't remember the best day of TV" - Unknown
We’ve been here in Portland for about 10 days now……. as I write, there is a gentle rain falling on the city, making me appreciate the phrase “lazy Saturday”. It’s such a huge contrast to where I just came from…..In Arizona when it rains, everyone treats it like the second coming of Christ: its all over social media, people take pictures of it, people take pictures of themselves in it. The next day at work, people recount their experience with moisture in excruciating detail: "I was just sitting there, and I felt like something was off, there was this smell in the air, and all of a sudden.." or there's the one-upmanship: "man it rained harder at my house than anywhere, we definitely got the worst of it". It sounds ridiculous just typing this. But it’s amazing to me that it only took a week of cool, rainy days for a smug superiority to arise within me, as I beat my former neighbors with disdain. Looking at the weather in PHX with its heat and rainless days, I feel superior: a lot like the Biblical Pharisees looking down on the “Am ha'aretz”…….people of the dirt, indeed.
I really wish the rest of my life would settle in as quickly as my haughtiness has…..don’t get me wrong, its been really great being here. I’m excited to be here and to start this journey, but there is a lot of residual stress that I’m dealing with: I’m still finishing up some tough loans, and work has been busy, as always. Here at the house in NE Portland, we’ve settled in pretty well: After ordering take out the first few days, we went grocery shopping, which we had never really done before here: Normally when I come up for work, its for 3-4 days and I know I’m not going to cook at all…I’m going to hit all the restaurants. Portland’s dining scene has reached legendary status and there are simply too many places to choose from…..so when we went shopping it just felt weird. I would like to say that it felt permanent, but I guess it hasn’t sunk in yet that I am staying here for more than a week, even though I’ve been here longer than that. Other than the mortgage stress, I’m feeling pretty good!
Portland has this great attitude/vibe that I enjoy. I know it’s a big city with lots of people, it just doesn’t feel like one. Every neighborhood feels like a small town, each with it’s own eateries, shoppes, mechanics, hardware stores. People tend to stay in their neighborhood and rarely go across town. If they can’t walk there in 10 minutes, or they can’t drive there in 3, then maybe it doesn’t get done today…. I mention going across the city to a particular place, and people look at me a little funny. It’s a completely different scenario than I am used to in PHX, and even though I have been coming here for 15 years, I’ve never really experienced it like this before.
Portland isn’t devoid of stress, in that way, it’s a very normal city. It’s not the beach, where you go for 3 days, turn off your phone, dip your toes into the sand and lapse into some sort of existential bliss. Beach vacations are great, but eventually reality sets in: you have to go home, and when you emerge from this coastal coma, there are tons of unresolved issues and myriad emails to catch up on. Portland isn’t the beach, but there is an undulating, almost Bukowskian rhythm to this place: there’s an ebb and flow to the day. You work, people still get things done, but it’s completely normal to have a drink at 4pm on your way home. It’s also completely acceptable to not work that much, and to live a very simple lifestyle. Work generally stops after 4:30 PM and people go home to their families or out to bars. If it’s a particularly nice day, people skip work and go outside. I once had a lawyer, 10 years ago, skip the whole month of July just to go fishing....at that time, it really pissed me off. "Who does that??" I thought. Now I think I'm starting to think about understanding it. I think the weather plays a huge part in the psyches here…when its nice and not raining, people play. When its rainy and dark, they drink and eat. Whatever the weather may be, I think I could get used to that part of this life. People appreciate little things here, more so than in most places, they are infinitely more relaxed than what I am used to....they walk slower, they are unfailingly polite, they LITERALLY smell the roses(It's called the Rose City) the parks are filled with parents playing with their kids or just taking walks with them. Kids are everywhere, playing: in the parks, in the streets, and in the fields. It's a modern metropolis, but it's almost as if someone designed a city to live inside one of Rockwell's paintings. Americana still lives! In the park by our house, every afternoon, the juvenile hordes arrive and it's unbelievably refreshing. When evening approaches, I hear the parents(my wife included) calling out to their kids to come home, and wait for the timeless protestation that “it’s not even dark yet!!” I’m not completely sure why, but witnessing this scene unfold every night is my favorite part of our life here so far.