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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 09-12-07, 04:03 PM   #1
thebristolkid
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One Man's Impression of Portland, Oregon

I've noticed many threads on BF dealing with some permutation of the age-old question: Should I move to Portland, Oregon? Well, a friend (heretofore known as "Chuck") and I recently left the relative safety of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to take a 4-day trip to Portland (in fact, we're still here) to answer that question for ourselves, and the following is what I've come up with thus far. This is not meant to be an endorsement nor a condemnation of the city; it is simply one lifelong East Coaster's feelings on the city and the region at large. My feelings are gut reactions, based on little more than immediate impressions, and are likely as wrong as they are right. There have been many profiles of the city provided by Portlanders on BF...I thought it might be interesting to provide my take as an outsider. I understand that this is likely to elicit some passionate defenses from PDX natives, but please do not take my criticisms as attacks. Portland is a wonderful city, a community-based city-of-the-people, and a wildly successful model of urban development for the rest of us. Without further ado:

PROS
  • This is clearly a city with a plan. Everything undertaken by government is done with the city/community/region's best interests in mind, from massive roadways and municipal parks to tiny little details (like the little track alongside city staircases so you can roll your bike upstairs). Back east, where the infrastructure is likely 250 years old, it's a little too late for a plan.
  • Green/sustainable everything. Mixed-use buildings and shiny new high-rise condominiums are sprouting up like weeds all over town, and every one of them is LEED-certified, and advertised as such (on the East Coast, if a building is LEED-certified, no one gives a sh*t. In Portland, if it's not LEED, it's an outrage).
  • Great food. GREAT food. So far, I haven't had a single bad meal in the city. And good god is it cheap. Special mention goes to Clyde Common at the Ace Hotel. Chuck and I ordered 4 drinks, 4 appetizers (including the beef tongue hash, the single best mouthful of food I had in PDX), 2 entrees, and a dessert for the grand total of $110, including a MASSIVE tip for our awesome imported-from-Queens waiter. It's stupid. It doesn't even make any sense.
  • There are a ton of hip little neighborhoods with safe, sleepy, dead-quiet residential communities flanking the more interesting main drags. However, after a few of these neighborhoods, things tend to blend together a bit (see below in the CONS).
  • Stumptown Coffee...say hello to the greatest latte you'll ever have in your entire life, and nothing else is even a close second. I had 3 of these, and from here on out, to get another cup of coffee somewhere else would feel like adultery. Speaking of great coffee, when you order an iced coffee at Grendel's (another local shop), they give it to you with coffee ice cubes so your drink doesn't get watered down. Brilliant.
  • The bikes are everywhere. It's not as much of a lifestyle as it is on the East Coast (i.e. it's not as much of a fashion accessory), but it's much more part of the culture (i.e. everyone rides, and they don't care what they look like, who makes their frame, and they certainly don't spend much time personalizing the whole experience). There are bike lanes everywhere, and no honking or cars running you off the road even when you (the cyclist) are in the wrong. There are even symbols painted on the road at traffic lights, where if you roll your bike over the symbol, the light changes in your direction. Also, I rented a post-apocalyptic-looking City Bikes hybrid for 4 days, including a helmet and a lock...for $65.
  • No sales tax. It's like being in Delaware, if you'd ever be able to make it in Delaware without taking a bath with your toaster.
  • Nature. 1.5 hours to the coast, 1.5 hours to skiing (and f'real skiing, not the "Appalachian foothills" skiing that I'm used to), 45 minutes to the Columbia River Gorge, minutes from being in the middle of the woods.
  • From the haughtiest restaurant to the grubbiest coffee shop, it's totally come-as-you-are. You could stroll into a white tablecloth joint wearing a toga, and no one would give you any looks. This attitude extends to hair color, tattoos, piercings, sexual preference, gender ambiguity, nudity, extra limbs, etc.
CONS
  • Aside from some Asian influence and the ubiquitous West Coast Mexican worker class, there is zero ethnic presence, particularly European. From what I've seen, there's no Little Italy, there's no Jewish part of town, no Polish or Germans. There aren't even any black people (I've read that Portland's population is something like 6.5% African-American, making it the whitest major city in America). Everything is homogenously, dispassionately white. This also means the food suffers. For example, I betcha I could find a right-wing conservative faster than I could find a decent bagel in this city.
  • The anarcho-vegan-smoker-unemployed-coffee-stoner-crunchy-hipster-slacker vibe that permeates everything. Behind the terrifying militant leftist facade is the glaring lack of any edge, sarcasm, urgency, or attitude. Everyone does everything in their own sweet time, and they get all sensitive if you sting them a little.
  • The fixed gear culture isn't nearly as pervasive as it is back east. In Philadelphia, I'd say 1 out of every 7 bikes you see is FG/SS. Out here, it's maybe 1 out of every 30.
  • It's totally on an island, from a geographical metaphor standpoint. Seattle is like 3 hours away...and that's about it. Even Sacramento is like a 9 hour drive, and who the hell wants to go there?
  • Smoking and coffee. Smoking and coffee. Smoking and coffee. And drugs. Then more coffee.
  • It's a totally down-and-out. There are no jobs, so unemployment and alcoholism are huge problems, and the homeless are everywhere, usually sleeping in the streets. After 8pm, the downtown side of the Burnside Bridge looks like a refugee camp.
  • To the untrained eye, most neighborhoods look the same. All feature the following items: a straight, flat main street, many bars, many coffee shops, a vintage looking theater with a neon marquee, bohemian little independent shops, an ultra-contemporary mixed-used residential building, an organic grocery market, and a Jiffy Lube/Walgreens/insert-standalone-chain-business-here that signals the end of the quirky little neighborhood. Pick a community: Hawthorne, Belmont, Mississippi, Nob Hill, Alberta...they all follow this basic formula pretty closely.
  • It's a haven for freaks and rejects. I'm definitely not weird enough to be here. Along with the guy-with-the-cat-on-his shoulder guy, the homeless-drunk-guy-getting-kicked-out-of-the-bar-complaining-that-he's-a-famous-movie-star guy, and the guy-with-one-big-dreadlock guy, we saw a "chick" hanging out at the GLBT radio station around the corner with a goatee that would put Chuck's to shame.
  • I'm a huge sports fan, and aside from the Blazers (who just drafted Greg Oden, a plus), professional sports are of negligible importance. There's no baseball, no football, and no decent college teams (although the Ducks just put a hurtin' on Michigan).
  • Despite the community spirit, strangers here are a little icy. You're much more likely on the East Coast to get a friendly wave/nod from someone you don't know.
  • There are no chain stores, anywhere, unless you brave a trip to the suburbs. It's great to foster an independent spirit, but sometimes you need a motherf*ckin' GAP.
  • 2 active volcanoes within a 70 mile-radius of downtown. Get up a few floors in any building and you can see both Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood. I mean, they're beautiful and all, but it still makes me nervous that some kind of Dante's Peak scenario could play out sometime in the near future.
  • You can't get lunch anywhere. It's a huge breakfast town, then things kinda shut down until 5pm. If you're hungry around noon, good luck. Maybe you could drive out to the suburbs to find a Wendy's.

That's about it. I understand this thread is likely gonna take some heat, but I figured it was still useful. Fire away.
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Old 09-12-07, 04:10 PM   #2
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hmm.. seems about right from what I've seen of the place too. nice write-up.
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Old 09-12-07, 04:16 PM   #3
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Interesting write-up. I've never been to Portland.
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Old 09-12-07, 04:26 PM   #4
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i lived there for a year and i can attest to a lot of that. i think the review is pretty good.

the "island" comment is spot on. if you leave portland you'll be amazed at how many strip malls there are. some places are downright gross with chain store after chain store.

i liked it though, it's just wasn't the right place for me.
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Old 09-12-07, 04:27 PM   #5
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the "island" comment is spot on. if you leave portland you'll be amazed at how many strip malls there are. some places are downright gross with chain store after chain store.
Sounds Like Boise
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Old 09-12-07, 04:37 PM   #6
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Sounds Like Boise
Sounds like anywhere USA.

I enjoyed your write up, I've been thinking of visiting Portland with an eye towards relocating there someday.

Many of the cons are true of pretty much anywhere in the western US outside of Cali. (geographic island, neighborhoods look the same, strangers etc...)
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Old 09-12-07, 04:52 PM   #7
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I recently came back from Portland and the cons are different for me.
You forgot china town????? And there were African American people.....the taxi driver who took us into the city was African American and was very friendly.
I saw chinese people as well and I agree there are more Anglos but that dosent mean anything. Im mexican and I didnt get any wow where are you from attitudes.....and when one guys asked about where I was from he was inquiring about the weather and said he was not a native either. He caome from chicago and loves Portland.
I am vegan and the food was great(for me)!
My experience was awesome. I have 2 friends there 1) grew up there and 2nd moved there about 2 years ago.
They both love it.
On lives in NW and the other in SW Portland.
I myself saw tons of track biccyles and fixed gear. As cliche as it sounds most were in front of or near vegan places...so yeah thats where you will find /see them. I saw a really sweet johnny cycles frame with bling components, but whatever...there were tons of Biccles and I loved seeing the morning commuters of cyclists going to work in the morning. There where tons of them going to work and all of them different. White collar , blue collar and messengers.
I can totally agree with the "crusty bum punk kids" They are just plane rude(to say the least cause they will censor my explitives).
I was walking with my g.f to a bar and one guy said "if you think your g.f is beautiful you should give me a dollar". So if I didnt give him a dollar it meant I was a dick and I thought my g.f was ugly. I looked at him and gave him a mean look and said thanks very sarcasticly. He than said while leaving his path "F u" your never gonna get laid ******."
Wow...what a Dumbass......He assumes my girlfirend is dumb and I am dumber that I would give him a dollar for a trick compliment......LAME
Other than those annoying kids...I loved my trip.
I met nice friendly people.....and
Good sweet zombie JEZUZ Stumptown coffee is the best coffee ever created by man
The soy latte I had made me want to cry...it was sooo good
Even there freaking house blend that day was great!!!
I found tons of "lunch places"...I guess I had my friend to point me into the right direction so i had an unfair advantage.
I liked it alot.
Im from san diego CA and am sick of this over priced lame ass conservative town and want to leave ASAP
And may move to PDX soon.
Sorry if you had ad experience....I had a freaking great time.

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Old 09-12-07, 04:53 PM   #8
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I enjoyed your write up, I've been thinking of visiting Portland with an eye towards relocating there someday.
Me too. I'm going there with my girlfriend in a few weeks to check it out (she's entertaining a job offer there). I think it's basically between Austin and Portland, with her leaning towards Austin, and me leaning towards Portland, although I haven't been there yet. I think my biggest concern is my absolute disgust for crusties that permeates my being.

The write-up was good and informative.
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Old 09-12-07, 04:57 PM   #9
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Me too. I'm going there with my girlfriend in a few weeks to check it out (she's entertaining a job offer there). I think it's basically between Austin and Portland, with her leaning towards Austin, and me leaning towards Portland, although I haven't been there yet.
in many ways austin is like a hot, dry version of PDX with way more BBQ.
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Old 09-12-07, 05:04 PM   #10
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Obviously I'm from the area, non of those cons seem that bad too me/unusual, hmmm. Also, how dare you mention the Ducks but not the Beavers, come on, our baseball team won the college world series twice in a row!
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Old 09-12-07, 05:05 PM   #11
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That was interesting to hear your perspective.
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Old 09-12-07, 05:12 PM   #12
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in many ways austin is like a hot, dry version of PDX with way more BBQ.
And no velodrome, which is why I'm leaning towards Portland. It seems like the Austin velodrome is dead in the water, which is too bad, because if that panned out, there'd be no "Where should we move" question to ask.
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Old 09-12-07, 05:36 PM   #13
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Winter: rain.

All winter long.

Rain.

Portland has a sorta kinda China town, and a large African American community.

Otherwise, great music and good food.
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Old 09-12-07, 05:59 PM   #14
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About the east coast friendly wave folk, they either wave to everyone, they think you're someone, or are out of their mind.
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Old 09-12-07, 06:22 PM   #15
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I visited Portland for a week in June and fell in love with the city. It seems to have everything I need: -Stop-Motion Animation work
-big music scene, a lot of different styles too
-big art and film scene
-vegetarian friendly
-environmentally friendly
-BICYCLE FRIENDLY

I agree with most of the Pros, but I think some of the Con's are actually Pro's as well, such as the lack of major sports teams and stores like the Gap. Who needs that garbage? Also, every person I met in Portland seemed really nice and friendly, not at all like people you'd meet in Philly or NYC. The whole pace is great, no one seems to be in a huge rush to get anywhere, and even on the highway no one is really speeding or tailgating, or cutting each other off, honking horns, all that stupid car stuff. I plan to move to Portland, I am just still working on getting a solid job out there (I am nervous to move to a new city based on freelance work). Give it up for PDX!
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Old 09-12-07, 06:42 PM   #16
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Sounds just like Vermont.
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Old 09-12-07, 07:13 PM   #17
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i will write a rebutal to your personal attack of my city later on
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Old 09-12-07, 07:28 PM   #18
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Portland Rocks. I just went there for the first time over Labor Day weekend. The street grid is AWESOME. The small blocks make it very walkable and also seem to calm traffic and reduce the overall speed of it. The streetcar system and fareless transit square are so well done and run so frequently that it's just easier to hop on a streetcar than try driving, parking, etc. Words honestly don't do it justice, you've just gotta check it out for yourself.
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Old 09-12-07, 07:37 PM   #19
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I love Portland downtown but the suburbs are horrible.
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Old 09-12-07, 07:38 PM   #20
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I wasn't impressed by Portland while out there this summer. Actually found it kind of lame. Definitely had some things that were great, the grid rocks. ROCKS. Also, the free public transportation is amazing, I think the hype is what killed it for me. Overall though, Philly wins. Austin and Chicago are next on my list to visit, but I think Philly will win. Sorry rest of the USA, Philly is the best city in the country.
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Old 09-12-07, 07:41 PM   #21
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Philly is cool but Tokyo is better
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Old 09-12-07, 07:43 PM   #22
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Philly is cool but Tokyo is better
*whistle*: out of bounds.
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Old 09-12-07, 07:46 PM   #23
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fair enough
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Old 09-12-07, 07:47 PM   #24
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I actually can't think of any place I would rather live in the States than Philly---applied for a job there recently in fact.
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Old 09-12-07, 08:04 PM   #25
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Aside from some Asian influence and the ubiquitous West Coast Mexican worker class, there is zero ethnic presence, particularly European. From what I've seen, there's no Little Italy, there's no Jewish part of town, no Polish or Germans. There aren't even any black people (I've read that Portland's population is something like 6.5% African-American, making it the whitest major city in America). Everything is homogenously, dispassionately white. This also means the food suffers. For example, I betcha I could find a right-wing conservative faster than I could find a decent bagel in this city.
There is an Edelweiss across the river if you want German things. I have yet to go there because I am always passing it, but I have a World Market down the street, and they have everything German I need.

Also, there are tonnes of black people here. You just have to know where they are at.

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The fixed gear culture isn't nearly as pervasive as it is back east. In Philadelphia, I'd say 1 out of every 7 bikes you see is FG/SS. Out here, it's maybe 1 out of every 30.
You kind of have to know people who ride FG/SS to really see them around in Portland. I know plenty of people who ride FG/SS, but, overall, I do not see as many people in general riding around in the downtown area, so I agree for the most part.

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It's totally on an island, from a geographical metaphor standpoint. Seattle is like 3 hours away...and that's about it. Even Sacramento is like a 9 hour drive, and who the hell wants to go there?
This is something I definitely agree with.

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It's a totally down-and-out. There are no jobs, so unemployment and alcoholism are huge problems, and the homeless are everywhere, usually sleeping in the streets. After 8pm, the downtown side of the Burnside Bridge looks like a refugee camp.
There is also a place that feeds the homeless right at the end of the Burnside Bridge. I do not know if you already knew that or not, but I just thought I would throw that out there. That is why there are so many usually gathered there. (I do not know its times of operation.)

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It's a haven for freaks and rejects. I'm definitely not weird enough to be here. Along with the guy-with-the-cat-on-his shoulder guy, the homeless-drunk-guy-getting-kicked-out-of-the-bar-complaining-that-he's-a-famous-movie-star guy, and the guy-with-one-big-dreadlock guy, we saw a "chick" hanging out at the GLBT radio station around the corner with a goatee that would put Chuck's to shame.
There are definitely some weird people here, but I think it provides entertainment, for the most part.

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I'm a huge sports fan, and aside from the Blazers (who just drafted Greg Oden, a plus), professional sports are of negligible importance. There's no baseball, no football, and no decent college teams (although the Ducks just put a hurtin' on Michigan).
I am not big on sports, so that is not something I am too interested in. Everyone here goes with Seattle Seahawks for football and the Seattle Mariners for baseball. There are some minor league teams here, but you hardly ever hear anything about them.

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Despite the community spirit, strangers here are a little icy. You're much more likely on the East Coast to get a friendly wave/nod from someone you don't know.
This is about half and half for me when I go into Portland.

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You can't get lunch anywhere. It's a huge breakfast town, then things kinda shut down until 5pm. If you're hungry around noon, good luck. Maybe you could drive out to the suburbs to find a Wendy's.
You just have to know where to go. You could always stop into El Grillo if you want some Mexican food, and their bathrooms are also Mary's Strip Club's, so you can see some strippers on the way to the can. They give you the biggest burritos, ever, for 1.75$ or something. (I have not been in there for some time, so I do not know if they have raised/lowered prices.)

I did not really have anything negative to say about what you said because I agree for the most part. Most everyone I know who comes into Portland from whatever city usually falls in love immediately. At least, you are enjoying your time (from what I can tell).

I am not born and raised here, though. Originally, I am from the Puyallup/Tacoma area of Washington.
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