Neighbourhood: Portland

Text & photography by Tim Moore (Letter To Jane)

Before the show Portlandia, I’d always had a hard time describing Portland and Oregon in general to people. Then the show gave me the line, where young people go to retire, and everything clicked. It is a town solely focused on maintaining a certain quality of life for your remaining years, even if you have 80 more years to live. The food is all local and cheap, the coffee and beer are a bit overrated but still better than 80% of the places I’ve been to, and of course everything is organic. Locals also refer to Portland as a big high school. One reason is because a lot of the people grew up in Oregon so you’re constantly running into people, and the second is because it’s a city broken up into cliques. Cool kids who wear certain clothes won’t go to a section of town because another group of cool kids in different kinds of clothes hang out there and vice versa. I know that happens in every city to a certain extent, but I know most cities don’t make it a main topic of conversation in their newspapers and media.

neighbourhood Portland oregon

While all these dynamics may sound a bit annoying, it’s being able to see them all play out together that makes it such a fun place to live. There are just so many dogmatic alternative lifestyles co-existing in a very small area that you can’t help but have a fun time watching how it all unfolds. Last week I was looking to rent a room and the owners told me very piously, “We only use baking soda and water to wash in this household, if you want to use soap maybe you should go rent a room from Rush Limbaugh.”

If there’s a cheat sheet I can give to anyone visiting it would be this:

  • All the “cool” places are on the East side while the “Establishment” hangs out in the The Pearl district on the West side.
  • If you’re not vegan at least tell them you used to be for a couple years, it will go a long way with locals.
  • Recycle everything and if you don’t, tell people you do so they’ll stop glaring at you.
  • If you want coffee try going to a place that’s not Starbucks, I’d recommend Heart Roasters on East Burnside.
  • Portland is a town built on happy hour menus, please take advantage. And while we’re on the subject, don’t order a Budweiser.
  • If you see someone wearing a suit, they work for Nike.
  • Be sure to ask anyone on the street for something to do. Portlanders love recommending people to places and it usually is a great way to find the best places.

neighbourhood Portland

Other than that enjoy, have fun and do whatever you like, because it’s all ridiculously cheap here.

From N˚4: Flight.