Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Maybe I waited too long to post about Portland, but now that I attempt to write about it, I cannot find much to say. It was a strange visit, one where I desired most to be alone, and one where I had not means of getting alone. Portland is a large bustling city - the streets are always full of bikers and pedestrians - but it is also a town where I always felt like an outsider. Before going into Portland, I heard many things about how it is the new, hip, cultural hot-spot in America. But all I found were some coffeehouses, a bunch of bicyclists, and a lost of elitism, as though the citizens were all too aware of their town's status. Though the streets were full, I was hard-pressed even to make eye-contact with one person. It's strange that, even here in New York where I've been wandering for the last few days, people are more apt to say hello, or at least nod. I mean, Portland can't really believe that they are the first to shave their heads and sit in coffeehouses, can they? In fact, it is strange that such a fad took so long to take place in Portland.

When I did speak with people, outside of some of the friendly travelers I met at the hostel, they were often rude and lazy in their conversation. When I asked directions from a waitress, just hours after stepping of the train, she gave me the names of two cross-streets. When I said I am not from here, so I am not familiar with those cross-streets, she said, "huh," and walked away. When I called Rogue breweries about taking the 2pm tour of their operation - one of my favorite brewers - and then walked 4 miles to get there, I was informed unsympathetically that their tour guide decided to leave early. A third time, on my final day, I asked a girl if there was a cheap place to eat lunch nearby, and she responded, "probably," and turned away.

What made it worse (and I know this is quickly turning into a complaint post), was that I really needed to have some time to myself to write and read, but none was available. I stayed in a dorm room at the hostel that was full each night I was there. And even the folks at the hostel were difficult to strike up a conversation with. One day, after returning from downtown I walked into the hostel to find at least a dozen people sitting in the common room. Yet, you could've heard a pin drop. It was just very, very strange.

It wasn't all bad, though, and I really don't mind the bad anyway. I mean, the sweet is never so sweet without the sour, right? I think it was because of the bad that I was able to find a couple places that I ended up really loving. The first was the food cart district along fifth and oak, where tacos were a 1.50 and the people watching was unbeatable. The area contained about 15 carts that served up everything from Venezuelan and Indian food to Czech. and Greek food. Another place that turned out to be a real blessing was the Hawthorne Hideaway. This bar was so dark, and the backs of the benches so high, that it lent the illusion of being alone. Plus, it was the only place in Portland I could find where I could get a cold beer cheaper than 5 dollars , and they served tacos 2 for a dollar. I ended up getting a lot of writing done here, and a bit of reading, though the darkness strained my eyes.

I understand that it is naive to think that I am getting a good grasp of a town when I only spend four days there. All I can really do is wander, and try to talk with people, and sit and watch. Well, as I write this, Brooklyn is outside of the window I sit next to, and I should be out there with it. I mean, I only have 6 hours before the Mets game tonight. (I bought tickets last night to see them play the St. Louis Cardinals).


Elizabeth said...

Wow, that's too bad about Portland. I got a better impression of Oregon in general, and especially Eugene, which reminded me a lot of Marquette. I wasn't in Portland even a whole day, so maybe I missed the rudeness aspect. Hope it was worth the trip though.

Kevin said...

To hell with Portland and its Hipsters. I also want to spew invectives against Rogue for not giving you a tour--I mean since when are micro-brewers a-holes?--but will restrain. Glad your trip is generally good though.

Just returned from Isle Royale. Your grant next year needs to involve it (Isle Royale) in some way. Maybe propose a story about a 19th century fisherman or miner out there. It is tremendous and you should take your boat.

Have fun and talk soon.