Saturday, March 23, 2013

Portland - everyones running from something

Portland is rightly called the weird city. There's a 'Keep Portland Weird' group in Paris! Go figure. It is definitely not typical of the other cities in the US i've visited so far.

Here's a few of the 'differences'.

1. Despite what I'd charitably call a 'shit' climate (although I have been spoilt by 8 years in Cape Town and know the UK is suffering right now) it has the highest percentage of cycling commuters of any US city. Running is also huge. The recent Shamrock runs (15k, 8k and 5k on St Patricks's Day) attracted 35,000 runners, and that for a city 1/20th the size of London. And the runners here are fast! Training speeds at 6am in the morning seem insane, when my body is just waking up with an easy jog. Portlanders take their exercise seriously, but generally with a local beer at the end of it. The trails start 2km from downtime and can take you 50km away without seeing a car. 

2. If you are a tattoo artist or a piercer (is that a word?) Portland offers plentiful employment! Everybody and everywhere on their bodies seems to be a canvas to Portlanders. I think it must be part of the entry requirements. But it's a great conversation starter :)

3. The homeless. A contentious subject to say the least. I really struggle with this. As in (1) the weather is 'wet', so surely you'd rather be in California right? Apparently not. A plethora of soup kitchens, shelters, sympathetic resident and authorities, makes this the homeless capital of America. Having recently moved from South Africa where unemployment is conservatively stated as 30% and you can employ a housekeeper for the equivalent of $15 a day, I'm finding it tough to be charitable, when I see homeless people on iphones, having film screenings in the street and doing a brisk trade in the city centre. I'm told a lot of the issues are down to a very unsympathetic mental health system in  this country? I'm sorry I feel this cynical right now.

4. Cycling commuters. Amsterdam with attitude is all I'll say!

5. The Timbers MLS team. I haven't been to a game yet (Square 1 digital agency please note :) ) but watched the first game of the season on TV, and I haven't seen an atmosphere like it, outside of a Italian or Spanish derby game. They love their soccer here.

6. Food and drink. 2,000 restaurants in Portland and 150 microbrews in a small city make this an amazing city to go out in. It's not cheap, but theres also not much price tiering so as long as you avoid the top 5 tourist restaurants you always get great beer, and normally great food too.

Despite, but probably because of what is an odd mix of outdoor crazy, outdoor and crazy, football crazy, and body art crazy, I've fallen in love with Portland. It's just big enough to feel like a city, but with trails and safe roads to ride on from my door. Thats a pretty good situation for me right now.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great place. Now imagine if they didn't have kuk weather?