Jan 17, 2018

Portland, First Impressions

The first thing I saw when I got to Portland was a legion of homeless bums, wandering and chilling in the streets. You might say I just hopped off the train at the wrong stop (Skidmore Fountain) but Google tells me it was indeed the right one for Voodoo doughnuts. I didn't end up getting a donut; I felt too conspicuous in my brand new grey Keds, clutching my phone hunting for directions. Instead I headed down to a cafe called Mother's to hole up from the cold.

The smell of unwashed people sticks with you. Whatever happened to public baths and poor houses?

The next thing I noticed is that there's lots of trains, that go all kinds of useful, practical places. Like downtown, and the convention center, and the airport. I was impressed at how incredibly walker friendly the train lines are. They go right through the center of town, and stop at street level. No stairs. I bought a day pass and just hopped on and off all day, but no one asked me for proof of fare, not ever. It reminded me a lot of the trains in Berlin, except cheaper and with warmer weather, somehow.

The weather was super dour. It was overcast all day and started raining at 3p. It hasn't let up since.

All the weird that SF used to be has strong echoes in Portland. People here are weird, in that fun funky Austin weird kind of way. I've heard that SF used to be weird. SF isn't weird anymore.

People talk a lot about how Portland isn't very diverse; it feels like the citizens of Portland have accepted this fact as a personal challenge and gone out of their way to instead showcase their individuality. Rock on Portland.

Women in weirdly overlarge button ups; butchesque.

I swear I saw a futsal arena and a pet funeral home out the train window on my way into the city from the airport. Should I know what futsal is? I don't know what futsal is.

Weirdly expensive shops. I wandered into a clothing shop near the Powell bookstore and was shocked to discover the pair of shoes.I picked up cost $500. The overcoat I wanted was $1,250. Yeah, right. How do people in Portland have this kind of money. What do people in Portland do that have this kind of money? Don't tell me tech exists here too; tech only admits to existing in SF.

Chatty airport staff who seem to really care about the rules. Please, don't talk to me. I don't want to answer your questions about the contents of my (yes really) empty pockets or the type of electronics I am currently carrying. And please just let the lady with two carry on bags and a purse do her thing. That purse is our repatriations for the loss of usable pockets in feminine clothing.

Powell's was nice, but I like the stock at Green Apple on the Park better. It's not as extensive, but they also don't have leagues of expired resale books. The number of sections Powell stocks is impressive, but I wasn't super awed by the contents of a few of their niche segments; a lot of it seemed undercurated, like they had just collected a set of titles without ready access to an expert in the field. For contrast, the small collection of books at SF's Botanical Gardens' gift shop is amazingly focused on botany and gardening books, especially for the Bay Area. Make no mistake, Powell had some great Portland/Oregon curation; I'm more complaining about their paltry Opera scores and electronics sections -- why even have one if you're not going to flesh it out appropriately?

I'm not sure what I think of Portland.

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