My first 36 hours in Portland, Oregon I wasn’t impressed. When I arrived Tuesday afternoon the city was wrapped in a gray mist. After checking in to my hotel, I went out for a run and to explore the city. It was damp and dreary and looked more grimy than fun and funky, which was what I’d expected, after all the wonderful things I’ve heard about Portland. I ran along the west side of the Willamette River, crossed a pedestrian and biking bridge to run along the east side, then looped over the Hawthorne Bridge to get back to the hotel. Sure, there were lots of groovy things to see, as I’d expected, and the anything-goes fashion that rules in Portland was interesting to observe, but many of the weirdly-clad people I saw in the park along the river seemed to be living on the street and they looked cold. And gray, like everything else.
Then on Wednesday the sun came out, I had a tasty and inexpensive lunch from one of the many food carts that line the streets and cluster on a few blocks, sat with my colleagues in a sunny park to eat amid a pleasant bustle, underscored by music from buskers, and I changed my mind. Portland is lovely and funky and fun.
After an invigorating day discussing prevention of sexual violence as a member of the Advisory Council of the National Resource Center on Sexual Violence (the meeting that brought me to Portland) a group of us went to a restaurant where I could be sure my chicken was “happy”. The vegetables were all locally sourced, the cocktails creatively concocted, the food plentiful, delicious and artfully presented, and the atmosphere was open and friendly. The restaurant seemed like the perfect Portland spot to me — unpretentious, generous, genuine and decidedly not stuffy.
Yesterday morning I went for another run, this time heading further north on the west side of the river, along the Greenway Trail. It was beautiful, a path right over the water, condos with gardens and balconies spilling flowers along the bank, big ships and city activity on the river and bridges spanning overhead. Turning back toward the hotel, I had to stop at a railroad crossing and wait ten minutes for a train to go by. Watching the cars trudge past was a moving art show, with all the different forms and shapes of the train cars and cargo, and frequent, colorful graffiti.
“More Alone, Less Pathetic” was written on one car in plain white letters. Is someone learning better how to be more centered in her or himself? I hope so because that’s always a good thing. I took it as a good sign.