Feb 212014

keep portland weird

I’m here. I love it. And I have that unjustified “home” feeling. It doesn’t seem to matter to my happiness chemistry that I arrived in the midst of a weather-pocalypse. Or that there’s traffic, aggressively attentive homeless people, and train noise. But I don’t know how to be here yet. And here are some of the adjustments I’m facing:

  1. I have to learn how to drive. I know how to drive. But I don’t know how to drive like Portlanders drive. They are very very very nice on the road. And I mean VERY nice. They’re confusing the hell out of me. “You go.” “No, you go.” “Okay, I’ll go.” “Wait, no, I’ll go.” This is a common road exchange. They also seem to anticipate when you want to change lanes and slow down to let you in. They’ll stop mid-roundabout to let you merge. They go the speed limit. No one honks, unless they’re in a tunnel and doing it for the joy of it (yippeee!). It’s a jovial way to be in transit, however, they are completely paralyzed by snow or ice on the road. I’ve seen them just stop on the road and get out of the car, like forget-it-I-just-can’t-do-it.
  2. Dressing up for anything is heavily poo-pooed. I’m interviewing for jobs in the moment. I dress up for those occasions, and I’m convinced I botched my first job interview by looking too city-ish. In NYC, you’re expected to look photo shoot ready. In Sedona, you’re expected to look ready to begin working that very day. In Portland, if the way the other interviewees are dressed is a clue to local protocol, you’re more warmly received if you look as if you’re going to climb Mt. Hood immediately after the interview. “Dressed up” is wearing the down Patagonia jacket instead of the synthetic Northface vest. Got it.
  3. There are more things to know about food and people’s interactions with food than I thought chemically possible. This is wonderful for the enjoyer of food, but an abject nightmare to someone in a position of having to serve it to them. I’m going to need to go back to school to learn how to accommodate the local tastes, ethical requirements, diet lifestyles, and procedures for extracting exciting things from a coffee bean.
  4. And speaking of things that go in the mouth, Portland is a beer culture. I knew exciting things were happening in the world with beer varieties, and now I’m sure that Oregon is the seat of this revolution. But, shhhhh, I don’t really like beer. I’m more of a tequila or sake kind of girl. But I simply will NOT be able to work in this town unless I learn about (and to love) beer.
  5. Anything I could possibly want from the world is so very very close to me. And the only real change/challenge with that for me is to figure out how not to explode my nervous system with anticipation every morning. Yes, city, and all that. There’s good food, good bookstores, parks, public transport, music, etc., etc…. But, also and WOW, there’s mountains (!!), and an ocean, and rivers, and geothermal oddities, and old growth forests, and Burning Man type desert playas, and water falling off of high cliffs everywhere, and hot springs,  and moist mossy dirt, and funny mushrooms, and SNOW, and, and, and … I really just want to get up every morning and hop into my van to go and fully fondle all of the environmental paradises I am now placed in. It’s overwhelming, really.
  6. I have to relax. No stress allowed in Portland. But wait, I’m in a city, right? In NYC, I learned how to bully my way through a Trader Joe’s, how to walk down a sidewalk without getting plowed over, how to leap on top of a cab to get it to stop. If I ordered something it was ready in six minutes. The trains were like clockwork. You said NOTHING to anybody you didn’t have an appointment to say something to. People meander here. They talk to the store clerks. Permits take weeks to come by snail mail. Resumes get reviewed and responded to in 10 days or so. And they wait, without seeming to mind waiting. It’s surreal. (and relaxing).
  7. I’m not allowed to throw anything away in the regular trash EVER. For most homes, regular trash collection comes only once a month, and your bin is the size of a large fish bowl. There’s a compost bin, and a every-other-recyclable bin. You must re-use or don’t use bags and containers, and packaging is a real consideration when grocery shopping.
  8. I feel absolutely fabulous physically. If you read my last blog post, you’d know that I’ve been feeling incredibly awful for months now. I was embarrassed to call it allergies, but it was allergies. I know this because I got 40 miles out of Sedona and felt WONDERFUL! People warned me that Portland makes everyone miserable because of it’s relentless wet weather and cold. Apparently my body thinks it’s awesome.
  9. I’ve had to get comfortable handing over my credit card and access to the vital intestines of my cherished Previa van to some random scruffy stranger at the gas pumps when I need fuel. I’m sure it’s fine. I’m just a wee bit touchy about my new van right now. Please let me do it? No. Okay.
  10. I’ve had to learn how to handle professional rejection. So I think I’m pretty hot shit in the hospitality industry. I’d hire me. I’m mature and can do everything. I’m damn near hyperactive with my energy level and can multitask impressively with a happy demeanor. I also never leave places I’m hired at, which I thought was an attractive quality. But I’ve been rejected many times, and initially I took it very very personally. I’ve since learned that establishments receive an average of 200 resumes for every open position. Eeek. So I guess the possibility that out of 199 other applicants there might be a few that are more hot shit than me isn’t too insulting. I need to remind myself continually about #6: Relax.



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  9 Responses to “10 Things I Immediately Had to Change About Myself Upon My Arrival in Portland, Oregon”

  1. Lol, #1 is exactly how I drive. And if you’re supposed to look like you’re about to go hike for a job interview, maybe you should just bring your pack. 😛

  2. keep up the writing. this is funny!

  3. Love this. Actually, maybe not just because of your writing skill, but also because I love Portland. Well, maybe not the relentlesses gloomy and chill weather during the winter months. If there’s any thing to Seasonal Affective Disorder, that’s me. Although, SAD is a handy way remembering the difference between “affective” and “effective” if someone needs one.

    Great farm to fork movement there. I think the light rail there is exceptional and I’ve visited multiple times just relying on that. It’s also crazy walkable for the central city. Geldwin Field! This city is also ground zero for PCT hikers. I didn’t meet you on the trail (congratulations on quite a recovery , by the way), but based on this blog you’ll obviously do well wherever you land, even if it’s not where you necessarily expect.

  4. It all sounds a bit, well, European…… specifically Scandanavian European. How are they on jumpers? x

  5. I am so Happy to read your Blog! Every word ring true, for you, So Much Love and So much Jouy, I so Love Portland, and Yes it is a Melange of Ethnic Diversities, You are Cherished! Kimmy Bear!

  6. Love it Kimberly! You know, 12 years ago I was going to move to Portland, based only on the research I’d done… never even been there. However, Sedona was a place along my journey that I just had to visit first, and the rest is history as they say. Sedona kept me, but I often wonder what life would be like had I proceeded with my plan. I still ponder if that may be my next big move on day. Thanks for your enlightened and always interesting perspective!

  7. Sounds like my kind of place .-)

  8. Sounds like you have found your home! Great – I have heard it is a very cool place and good luck on your job hunting!

  9. Wow..I really enjoyed reading this.
    7 years ago I moved from Michigan down to south Florida, and while I have enjoyed it here I’m beginning to get both bored and aggravated with it.
    I’m a big cyclist who would love to ride my mountain bike on an actual mountain and I love craft beer, also it would be kind of nice to see something rising above the skyline other than a bridge.
    I would probably miss the sunshine here, although it rains a lot during the summer here and it’s not so sunny, but after having spent the majority of my life in Michigan, I think Portland’s clouds and rain wouldn’t be so much different or any worse.
    I’m definitely toying with the idea of being “weird” and accepted for it.

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