Well, it’s winter here in Portland. It’s been 6 months since Kim and I moved to out to the West Coast with a vague sense that we heading for a more fulfilling, happier lifestyle. Our lives in Washington, DC were far from miserable; in fact they were pretty great. We just felt like we had more to see before we settled down. It was a risky proposition, considering I was abandoning a good job and a great network of friends for unemployment and isolation. When we visited Portland on a scouting visit last March, Kim and saw a dreary, soggy, run-down, industrial town and panicked. We thought we were about to make a terrible mistake by moving. After scrambling to figure out a way to avoid moving out to Portland, we compromised by deciding to give Portland a chance, for a couple months.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much our outlook as changed since then. Did we make a mistake? Are we happy to be here in Oregon? Are we here to stay? Is Portland home or just a experiment in travel? Can we handle the weather? Let’s take stock, shall we?
The Good: So far, talking about the winter weather here in Portland is a bit like talking about the fact that your pitcher has a no hitter going in the 6th inning. There’s a lot of innings left to play, and there’s a good chance you’ll jinx everything just by commenting on it. I’ll probably regret it, but I have to say the winter weather here is pretty fantastic. While snow storms and blizzards have pounded the East Coast, Midwest, and even the South, Portland’s been pretty great. We’ve just had a week of straight sunshine, and when it rains, the temperature hovers in the mid 50s. For some reason, the only time it really starts to pour is when friends come to visit. To make things better, there’s snow in the mountains, so Kim and I can play in it, but not commute through it. I’m starting to get why so many endurance athletes live in Oregon. You can train year-round and never deal with biting cold. Crocuses are even popping up along my running route already.
The Bad: Having said all this, I’m getting the sense that spring is when the city’s collective mood turns grim. While the rest of the country get’s to play in the sun around May, Portland’s rain keeps coming until mid-June. We’ll see how it shakes out over the next few months.
the Good: People are generally friendlier here than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. Almost everyone asks how you’re doing and most even stick around to hear your answer. Most Portlanders bond over the fact that they’re not actually from Portland. When Kim and I explain that we moved here for a change of pace and to spend more time playing outside, we’re received by nodding smiles rather than the quizzical stares offered by East Coasters. Folks on the streetcar or at the gym are helpful and kind, almost to a fault.
The Bad: It’s actually a bit frustrating to walk around Portland because at 4-way stop signs, drivers smile and wave each other on, then all cautiously advance at the same time and slam on their brakes in unison. Being a pedestrian in this town would be easier if someone was the slightest bit aggressive. Our friend Liz likes to say that sometimes it feels like we live in the Shire. It’s quaint and relaxing, but a little mischief wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
The Good: I love that Portland is small enough for me to feel like I live on main street in a small town, yet big enough for me to take the streetcar downtown for a movie, a concert or even a basketball game. Best of all, I can go for runs in one of the country’s largest urban parks, which also happens to be a temperate rainforest, and then take a half-hour drive to the beautiful Columbia Gorge.
The Bad: On sunny days, the backdrop of Portland is the beautiful snow-cap of Mount Hood, but for most of the winter the backdrop is simply layers of hazy gray. There are also some days, not many, but some, where I wish I could just hop in the car and head to DC or New York, or back to Bucks County. I suppose some longer trips to Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver will have to do.
Stay Tuned for Part II