Last week we went to Portland, a city I find more charming every time I visit.
When I was in my 20s, I had the impression that Portland was a backwater — a city where Bay Area expats went after they'd lost their spark and just wanted a cheap place to spawn and await death's sweet embrace.
All that may still be the case, but I now realize there are far worse places to spawn and await death's sweet embrace than Portland. It has great neighborhoods, parks, lots of used bookstores and an ever-expanding public transit system, and it's the third-coolest summer city in the U.S. (Now that I've spent most of my life away from the East Coast, heat and humidity are not things I wish to reacquaint myself with.)
Plus, windmills on buildings! This was the scene from outside our hotel.
Also, Portland has naughty doughnuts. We made a trip to Voodoo Doughnut in the Old Town area, where I snapped a shot of this phallic eclair.
We picked up a box of doughnuts, including flavors called Grape Ape and Old Dirty Bastard (the one with the Oreos and peanut butter). Delicious!
Appropriately enough, Voodoo is located across the street from the giant "Keep Portland Weird" sign. (However, I think messages about keeping various cities "weird" are so common now that they actually spotlight how unweird the sentiment is.)
Would I move to Portland? I'm probably too loyal to the Bay Area. And it's not really practical for work anyway, which brings me to Portland's main failing. It's only useful if you can telecommute to a company located somewhere else or work as a freelancer. There just aren't that many local jobs. Most of the people we know who have moved to Portland from the Bay Area have this kind of arrangement, and it seems to work pretty well for them — especially since they're earning San Francisco salaries and paying Oregon housing prices. (Tellingly, the largest employer in Oregon is Intel, a company based in Santa Clara.)
Apparently you can even use your out-of-town fortune to buy up state-owned buildings now. I saw this near downtown.
I'm just not sure I'm the kind of person who could telecommute. I like human interaction, and plus I would probably spend the entire day doing KenKens and eating Pirate's Booty.
I've also complained before about Portland's lack of urban grittiness. This time around we stayed in the Pearl District, the closest thing Portland has to SoMa. There was an SRO across the street from our hotel, which helped us feel at home. (And from our encounters with some of the residents, we discovered that Portland isn't a complete stranger to the crazy.)
But it definitely lacks the diversity of the Bay Area. For instance, it has the least-black Martin Luther King Boulevard of any city I've been to.
And certainly it has the least-Latino boulevard named Cesar Chavez. (In contrast with our Cesar Chavez, theirs rocks the middle initial E. Apparently they wanted to put him in the same category as W.E. Coyote and C.E. Cheese.)
Unlike San Francisco and the East Bay, Portland doesn't appear to have anything named after Malcolm X.
I'm sure they're working on it.