Wednesday, December 2

The Newest Girl's Guide to Portland

Ten months ago, I lived in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Today, I live in Portland, Oregon.
People ask me, all the time now, about the differences between "the South" and here, and there are a few stories I love to tell. I love to inform my new co-workers that my previous co-workers didn't believe in evolution -- and I love the look on their faces, as if it's crazy to even suggest such a thing.
I love describing the ways that "southern hospitality" proves itself a myth, and how everyone here is so fucking nice I can't handle it. How it feels like that commercial where the guy thinks his gas station attendants are there to rob him, because gas station attendants here actually do some of that, and it surprises me so much that they're so helpful. Kids play in the street -- like, actually play, like they do on tv! -- and the department of Human Services actually treats you like a human -- as if helping you was their job, or something. People thank the bus driver.

Really, I love to badmouth my "home"state (i wasn't born there, so i don't have to completely claim it, you know?) because I never belonged there. I never fit there-- though I found something close in Greensboro (which is why I stayed there so long) --and I continually felt disappointed and outraged by so many of the ignorant, sexist, racist, biased, hateful people, religions, customs, and laws that were present in everything. The country is tearing itself apart out of sheer delusional, belligerent ignorance, and I won't shy away from my thought that it all bubbles and begins in the South. And, yes, it was my home for a very, very long time, and I didn't realize how much I hated it there until I entirely and completely gone. Don't get me wrong, I knew I didn't like it where I was, and that I hated my family's town, but the extent of that.. I didn't realize it until I didn't have to be there anymore-- didn't have to settle.
I love reminding people of how lucky they've been to have lived here-- whether their whole lives or a couple years -- by describing where I've lived, and what I've lacked because of it.
But I'll stop whining for a minute.

So let's talk about new life things.
Money is, so far, the biggest hindrance here. It's expensive to live here and I wasn't quite prepared for the very very high general living expense. I could get by with taking days off of work before, but here I need to work every day, sometimes at two different jobs, to make enough to maybepossibly pay my rent and car. And food... that Portland nice-ness was integral for my "food assistance" application, and thank the universe and the US government that foodstamps is pulling us through. Being able to buy food, at all, without worrying about which bill won't get paid, is a big deal -- being able to buy healthy food (and not-so-healthy snacks, too) is nothing short of a life-saver. While we indulged during our first month here, we now rarely eat out/take out food more than once a week, except when we're truly desperate or lazy. While the food trucks here are amazing, they're not any cheaper than a regular restaurant, and cheap eats aren't particularly common. And moving to any new place always comes with a pile of brand new bills, fees, and security deposits, on top of the ones I brought with me.

But it's beautiful here. With tree lined neighborhoods all over the place, and a tiny little metropolis in the center, volcanoes on the horizon and bridges in every direction. I even love the rain, when it's around.
Activities are plentiful to the point of confusion. There is always, always so much going on that it's hard to keep up with or afford. I've talked to a lot of people that grew up here, and they're always "there's nothing to do heeeere..." which blows my mind. (So I kind of feel like Weetzie, thinking about all the awesome LA things people don't notice.)  But there's fairs and festivals at least once a week somewhere in the city, sometimes every single day, especially during the weekends.
We try to do at least one interesting thing per week. Back in the fall it was Rose City Comic Con, before that it was my birthday so it was busier, with a street fair saturday and a trip to the nickel arcade. The weekend before was $2 day at the science museum so we went to a planetarium show. Before that was $3 movie theaters (with beer of course!) bands at people's houses, movies in the park, a variety of farmers markets several times a week. Fireworks for seemingly no reason. A haunted corn maze with a mini circus/cabaret in the center.  Friendsgiving with almost-strangers. Breweries. Street fairs. $2 happy hours. Shakespeare plays on top of a small mountain (volcano!).
There is so. much. stuff.

Here's a list of the basics to start you off: The things you will learn literally as soon as you get here.
» it's Will-Am-ette not will-ah-met. Think Willamette like Damnit
» Couch street is pronounced Cooch. Don't even ask why, there doesn't seem to be a reason.
» everyone drives slow. Traffic sucks here because nobody seems to know that they're supposed to go the speed limit.
» Oswego is pronounced Osweego for some reason.
» pick up a copy of This Is Portland: it's a quick read and crazy on point.
» it never seems to rain for more than an hour at a time. But it will drizzle for hours on the worst days, and winter is coming, so...
» there's four main districts; NW SW NE SE; depending on where they are in relation to the river. So any time you have an address, you know the area it's in. There's others, but not as big of a deal.
» Technically the cities on a grid system, but it's a convoluted lopsided grid. Streets curve in weird directions and stop randomly to pick back up blocks later. Google Maps is your friend.
» There are four main methods of transportation; the light rail (the max), the street car, the bus, and bikes. People love their bikes here.
» There are a lot of bridges. A lot. They're beautiful.
» people are weirdly, frighteningly nice. Not just polite, but nice, helpful, friendly, etc. It's weird.
» there's lots and lots of homeless people. Not just panhandlers but straight-up sleeping on the streets and pitching tents under bridges homeless. It's unpleasant and painful to see, but isn't usually harmful, safety-wise.
» this is a 21+ city that makes it kind of hard for minors to attend events. We're actually considering a fake ID for my sister just to get into shows or late night movies and restaurants.
» everything is expensive, get a good job. Seriously.
More Portland info to come.
“How I Live My Weetzie Way in Portland" coming soon, as well as my own photographic love letter to my new city.

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