Beer, Bikes, & Bridges:
Notes on Portland, Oregon
This collection of Stumptown tales is from what I lovingly refer to as Portland 1.0 (spoiler alert: there are even more tales to be told), and includes a Story Exchange booth in the tradition of Cometbus, a shitty job at a dollar store in the tradition of The Book Bindery, and a contest to name a statue at the Wiener Wagon in the tradition of anthropomorphized hot dogs.
SO THEY SAY:
"a reluctant love letter to Portland"
"She... drinks a fair amount of PBR, all the while acknowledging that the idea of Portland as utopia is frustrating, and it wouldn't really be, except she loves all the people there so darn much"
In a parking lot in New Jersey, my friend and I sat around and talked about the future. In a classic scene of suburban escapism, we planned a road trip to the West Coast. It was the obligatory cross-country adventure—our own little Manifest Destiny of getting the fuck out of our tiny town and just seeing something different. We would find ourselves, we’d find new ideas, and we’d find wondrousness. It would be perfect. It would be life.
Years later, life happens. She found love and it held her up on the East Coast. Me, I kept rolling west, and after a year in Chicago ended up heading to live in Portland, Oregon.
For me, who grew up in Jersey, Portland has always had this stigma of being exciting and different and alternative—pretty much the place to be. Intense nature surrounding a city full of do-gooders and quirky folks, with beer, bikes, and bridges. It sounded like my kind of life, so I packed up and moved out here using a national year of service as a vehicle and excuse.
No sales tax, no accents, and no White Castles. Lots of evergreens, lots of rain, and lots of white people. Sure it was a different kind of place with a way different vibe than I was used to, but I thought myself fairly qualified to make a smooth transition because of my propensity towards many of the things Portland’s all about. Come on—delicious beer and a bunch of passive-aggressive hippies! How hard could it be? Plus, New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the nation where you can’t pump your own gas. If anything, I’d bond with Oregonians about how they fumble and spill gasoline on their shoes when driving out of state.
And so, another East Coaster moved to Portland. Blah blah blah. Another asshole rolls into town and offends all the sensitive nice people with her dirty fucking mouth. Another chick from Jersey strolls around the mall on hard days when she feels homesick. Another under-employed transplant learns to love the place.