The people over at The Frisky, know what’s up, at least as far as my cultish hometown is concerned.While the article below was not penned by anyone with a name, I cannot contribute its awesomeness to anyone in particular. I can say that it is true and I have added my two cents where I could.
If you’ve seen “Portlandia,” you know that Portland is a weird city. If you live here, you know that people spend a lot of time, money, and energy to maintain that weirdness. The guy wearing a Santa suit and riding a unicycle around the farmer’s market, for example, he’s trying really hard. I’ve lived in Portland my whole life, and I’ve always found the forced weirdness kind of annoying, because really, there are quite a few things about Portland that are just legitimately, truly, genuinely, non-ironically weird. Here are 10 examples…
1. We don’t honk. Seriously–it’s possible to go days and even weeks here without hearing a car horn. –
You know, when I lived in Portland, I had NO problem using my horn for an extended period of time, if some asshat cut me off or did some other rude act while driving. I must admit that while I rarely did use my horn, when I did I let that baby rip for a good minute at least. I found a lot of pleasure in that.
2. It is not uncommon to see zip-off cargo pants in our fine dining establishments. For a really classy night out we might add a fleece jacket.
Black-tie events are generally not the norm in Portland. Of course, the culture is evolving. Growing up, when I would go out dancing (in the late 1990’s & early 2000’s) it was highly rare to have to pay over $6.00 for entry into a club. In fact, paying that much would mean the place was either pretty high end or full of itself and completely crap. So, in general I don’t think we are used to the complete hi-brow, or perhaps it hasn’t been around as long in Portland as it has other places. I don’t really have an answer to this one. We are artsy, but equally like being in the out-of-doors. What else can I say.
3. Recycling is the rule, not the exception.
It is really difficult for me to go to other places in the US and the world and find out that they don’t recycle. It is painful actually, and I am not kidding! After all, Oregon was the first state in the nation to create a bottle bill which has been a model for other places in the U.S. and throughout the world, including Germany!
4. Also? The recycling is complicated. Most establishments are equipped with at least 3 or 4 recycling and compost bins. As [author’s] friend Mike put it, “You need a freaking sustainability degree to know how to best dispose of your bendy straw at Whole Foods.”
Once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t so bad. For people who are dissuaded by the sheer complexity of the recycling process in Oregon, I only have this to say, “Get over it”! Unfortunately, plastics are not all the same and unfortunately, the same can be said for paper too (if it is waxy, for example) and for this recycling is a bit more complex. I imagine that this front end sorting saves time and money later – or at least I hope it does. I have heard rumors that, both here in Germany and in Oregon, all that cannot be recycled is burned. This is only hearsay, as I have not yet found credible proof yet. I would welcome any credible information either supporting or dispelling these rumors for both Oregon and Germany.
5. We take brunch very seriously. Sunday brunch is like church but way more important, and with more house-made organic marionberry jam.
Yes, brunch is like a church. In fact, you could say since Portland is like a cult, the brunch restaurant is where we all go to honor our leader. Now exactly who our leader is, is up for debate. How about that for a cult, huh! My husband and I might argue that whom, or what rather, we go to worship to is a good quality bloody-mary! Believe me, it is a Portland standard!! One of our favorite places to go to ‘church’ is either My Father’s Place or Genies who both have a mean variety of bloody mary’s!
6. We freak out about the sun. When it’s sunny, no matter what time or day of the week it is, no matter the actual temperature, every single person in Portland will flock outside and post the following status update on their Facebook page: “SUN!!!!”
No kidding! Portlander’s know that it rains far more in Seattle than it does in Oregon. Yeah, okay – it isn’t by much more than Oregon, but still!! This is part of the reason we appreciate the SUN. It only rains eight to nine months out of the year, so those three months of sun, whenever we get sunny days, we relish them!!! Unfortunately, this means that if you know any tanned people in Oregon they either spray tan, fake tan or just got back from vacation somewhere sunny and warm! Most Oregonians and Portlanders are pasty white in comparison to Americans who live further south.
7. The bicycle lobby is a political force to be reckoned with. It’s like Big Oil without the oil.
From the League of American Bicyclists, Virgin Vacations via Oregon Live
Portland has a varied bicycle network that connects all parts of the city. This network has proven successful in dramatically increasing bicycle use. Portland also has a strong bicycle culture where all types of cyclists can find opportunities to enjoy riding a bicycle. Portland’s Create-a-Commuter program is the first project in the United States that provides low-income adults with commuter bicycles as well as a session on commuter safety. The bikes come outfitted with lights, a lock, a helmet, a pump, tool kits, maps and rainwear.
Portland’s bicycle network has grown from 60 to 260 miles since the early 1990s. Bicycle use has quadrupled over the same period without any increase in crashes. The city still has 38 miles of bike lanes left in order to achieve its master plan. But in some neighborhoods bike commuters are as high as 9% (10.01.10).
According to an article published in OregonLive.com (the online version of the print newspaper, The Oregonian) in March of 2011, a study published by “John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, the two most prominent bicycling researchers in the country, studied nine large cities in the U.S. and Canada that have promoted cycling and singled out Portland for their highest praise.” They explain that, “Portland’s success is evident in the numbers, with a 6-fold increase in cycling levels since 1990.” (Read the report)
While teaching at PSU, I once had moderated an in-class debate on car-culture versus bike-culture versus pedestrian-culture. Yes, I am not kidding. It was also the first day of class. It was a very heated debate, to say the least with no real winner in the end. I think the point is that all three are here to stay and not going anywhere so we all must learn to coexist, and we do try in Portland.
Once a year in August the city even closes their many bridges and keeps them open only to bicycles (with minor exceptions). This event is called The Providence Bridge Pedal. A few years ago, as a birthday present I went on this ride with my then-ten-year-old nephew and he crossed ten bridges with a broken arm!!
8. Despite living in one of the rainiest states in the union, we take pride in not using umbrellas. We’d rather get smugly soaked, thank you very much.
Seriously, only non-locals or transplants use umbrellas. Hard-core Portlander’s have rain gear and use it when they ride their bike 365 days a year, even in the rain!
9. Every menu at every restaurant in the entire city includes this sentence: “Gluten-free bread available upon request.”
In my opinion, Portland is a unique foodie paradise. Firstly, we have a number of awesome grocery stores for foodies with high quality fair. We also have a number of “foodie-blogs” and even more food carts. What can I say, we are city that loves food, why should anyone go without even if they cannot ingest gluten. These restaurants are EVERYWHERE!
10. We glamorize city service careers. Waste water treatment employees, for example, are regarded as environmental crusaders, saving the world one septic tank leak at a time.
I think this is because we are a community full of community-minded people who want to make a difference…and/or make a decent paycheck. I am going more with the former than the latter. One of the things I like to say about my undergraduate education experience is that it taught me to be an advocate for the things that I believe in and for people who might not have the same access or opportunity that I have. I think this is a very Portland thing. I might be wrong, but in my mind this seems very Portland as most of the people in town that I know, feel similarly. We are a city of volunteers and non-profits galore! So, why not seek city service careers in attempting to make change, as it can be done at all levels, right?!
Any Portland readers want to add to this list? And as for non-Portland readers–when are you coming to visit?
To close, I would rather like to ask you, dear reader, if there is anything you think should be added here, same as the original author. I would also like to refer back to the opening of the article about keeping Portland weird. I think this phrase is more of a selling point than anything else now. I remember seeing bumper stickers with this phrase on them at Saturday Market. I honestly think it used to be a little weirder than it is today. Weird has become our mainstream. The city is growing up, maturing and slowly trying to become more metropolitan while not loosing site of its roots, although I cannot claim to know which stage the city is in with reference to it’s general development. Perhaps I should try to do that…