Portland: The Pleasure Garden
She kneels down
and from the quietness
We take that stillness
deep in the earth
becomes her city.
If she could speak
this is what
she would say:
Follow that breath.
Home is the journey we make.
This is how the world
knows where we are.
Ronald Talney (poem for Portlandia)
Portland Monthly just came out with its May issue describing the 100 reasons to love Portland. I loved the idea–get it, ‘love’? hehe–but couldn’t possibly write out 100, so I’m narrowing it down to 10:
1. PoMo Executive Director, said it best:
I grasped the paradox at work…: secure in this somewhat quaint identity, Portland could absorb a wild array of realities. Seek an all vegan lesbian cohousing project? A vaguely right wing rockabilly band? A mobile-social online financial start-up? Total anonymity in a West Hills mansion? Or in a Foster-Powell duplex? Portland can provide all of the above, or something else entirely…In 15 years, I’ve discovered one very good reason to love this town: you can be yourself or you can be someone else. Portland takes it all in stride–as long as there’s good coffee available.
In other words, this is the land of Misfit Toys. Everyone is welcome here.
2. The space to urban density ratio. Within the city limits there are over 1,000 miles of trails and parks all within 20 minute walk. And there is talk of building a green 10-mile bike/pedestrian loop through the city center. In other words, it doesn’t feel like a dense city…yet
3. Caring about the man. The poor man that is, but Portland does it creatively. Every year there is a give guide created with local charities to choose from in which to invest money or manpower. There are coffee shops that also double as various non-profits, like TaborSpace, which acts as a community center.
4. Alternative alcohol consumption. This is the first city I’ve felt comfortable drinking in, and yet I’m not judged when I decline a drink either. When I do though, I don’t have to stick to beer or wine. There’s cider–my fave and gluten free–and mead, and ale. There’s always something new to try and with the ratio of bartenders in this city, everything is made well.
5. The DIY culture and focus on the local economy. The community radio station is a volunteer run. There are bike collectives that offer trainings on how to fix your bike. Co-ops abound in categories I would have never dreamed of like banks and grocery stores–they are even talking about creating a Community Investment Trust in which the neighborhood’s residents can in real estate projects in their area , and as the commerce grows, so can equity, which then investors can draw from. Talk about hitting gentrification at it’s root.
- Doreen, a unique microphone created by Philip Graham, founder of Ear Trumpet Labs.
6. Apparently, we are the secret tango-dancing capital of the hemisphere?! Who would have thunk??? An event in February, Valentego, draws dancers from all over the world. Better still, this city this size offers the most varied amount of dancing EVERY night of the week. Wanna tango? How about contra dancing or square, salsa or swing? Blues? Ecstatic? We got you covered.
7. Powell’s alone deserves its own number. An independent store that takes up a whole city block? Yes, please. Beyond that, this is the only place I have seen that has a thriving independent bookstore scene (Thank God. I can’t seem to handle B&N anymore anyway) and a great literary scene in general. There are readings, publishing houses, independent zines…
8. Food carts! That statement should be enough, but for those of you not from here, I’ll divulge more. Despite the food and safety handling quips, food carts are an economical way to test out new foods for both consumer and provider. They can also bring money to an otherwise empty lot. Plus, who wants to chase a food truck when I know the food cart I love is just down the street (Ain’t got time to chase a food truck down!)?! And this city is full of ’em from the standard Mexican food cart to fish ‘n’ chips and even Mauritian food–do you know where Mauritius is??? This in general says a lot about the food scene in Portland in general, which you will only believe if you visit. The Food Cart Festival is a case in point.
9. The music scene. Though this city is only 800,000 strong–which you would never believe from everything we got going on here–we see them all: Taylor Swift, Macklemore, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac. Then you can catch big names at intimate venues as well, and the prices are cheap in comparison to other cities. Plus, Portland is home to some notables as well: Modest Mouse, Josh Garrels, Esperanza Spalding, The Decemberists. Just like dancing, you can find music everywhere in all sorts of venues.
10. Accessible culture. Free Shakespeare in the park. Plays with sliding scale or pay what you will costs. Discount movie theaters that include food and libations for purchase. Discount and free days at most of the museums and the zoo. Portland values making art available to all for an affordable price. You can’t walk away and say that you couldn’t find anything to do because of money.