50 Things I Will Miss About Portland

Posted by Ruth Brown on December 13th, 2012

I moved to New York* last week.

Sorry to drop that on you after five months of radio silence.

It was kind of sudden. The Boy wanted to move here for work-related reasons and I agreed. That’s the short version.

The slightly longer version is that we were never going to stay in Portland forever and it seemed logical that while we are living in the States, we should live in some different (and bigger) parts of it.

I had mixed feelings about leaving. I’ve been here a week and a half and I still have mixed feelings. Portland has been very good to me. I had a great job, good friends, and very high quality of life in a very cool city. And I’ll be honest: I love New York as a place to visit, but it isn’t my ideal place to live. It’s huge and crowded and exhausting and often unfriendly and the weather sucks and a lot of it seems to smell like vomit.

But, you know, I wasn’t originally very enthusiastic about moving to Portland, either. I thought it was small and daggy and that I’d never find a job in the media and why, exactly, was I giving up a great job and good friends in a very cool city to move there again? And I was wrong. It was one of the best life decisions I’ve made thus far.

So we’ll see how this whole New York thing goes.

But enough introspective bullshit. I have decided to say farewell to Portland in listicle form. I was originally going to do 100 things I’ll miss, but it turns out that’s way more difficult than it sounds. So here are 50, in no particular order (except the order in which they occurred to me, which is actually a very particular order I suppose…):


50 things I will miss about Portland

1. The excellent human beings I have met. Honestly, I could just make this a list of 100 awesome people from Portland. I won’t, though.

2. Its small-town-ness. Yes, sometimes it’s really shit when you can barely leave the house without running into someone you know, but sometimes it’s great to go to a show or a coffee shop or just walk down the street and see heaps of familiar faces.

3. No sales tax.

4. Powell’s

5. Everyone at Willamette Week. They took me in as a lost, lonely non-immigrant and listened to my stupid story ideas and we all drank a lot of beer and Vitamin Water together. I am a far better writer and editor for having spent the past few years in that office.

6. Amazingly good coffee available everywhere.

7. Being able to dress like a bum everywhere — like really, everywhere: nice restaurants, the theater — without anybody judging or caring. Or even noticing, probably.

8. So much good food, so cheap

9. Cycling everywhere. I could cycle just about anywhere (anywhere I would want to go, anyway) in PDX within 45 minutes. Although I still don’t self-identify with the whole cycling culture, it was my primary form of transportation for the past two-and-a-half years, and that city surely has the most passive drivers in the country. Frankly, I’m petrified of cycling in most of New York, and will likely rely on public transportation far more.

10. PDX airport. It’s so tiny and un-crowded and fast and the free wifi is great and you can catch the light rail all the way there and there is a Powell’s and some of the most laid-back TSA agents I’ve encountered in this country.

11. The beer. Way too much IPA? Sure. But at least you never have to drink the same IPA twice.

12. All the… nature. I didn’t spend much time in the nature, but it was nice to know the option was so close-by if I ever felt the urge.

13. Ground Kontrol.

14. Karaoke everywhere.

15. Spending entire days at Courier Coffee, drinking macchiatos and talking shit.

16. The sexy voice of the Spanish language announcements on the MAX.

17. MusicfestNW. Not just because it’s an amazing music festival (and I no longer work for the people who put it on, so I can say that sort of objectively), but for the way it consumes the city for a full week.

18. The hyper-localism. Yes, it feels (and is) parochial at times, but the way the city embraces and celebrates anything home-grown really is tremendous.

19. Summer. 9:30 pm sunsets, perfect weather, long patio drinking sessions, a million things happening every weekend.

20. Sniggering like a 10-year-old every time someone says “Go Beavers!”

21. The absolutely bizzaro local politics. From the fact that mayoral candidates are expected to participate in a doughnut eating contest and a variety show to the fact that people here are still fighting about water fluoridation in the year 2012, it has been a joy to observe.

22. Filmusik.

23. Riding over the Morrison Bridge in the middle of the night.

24. Radio Cab. Seriously, the nicest, most intelligent and geographically-knowledgeable cabbies you’ll find anywhere.

25. The word “spendy”. Actually, I kind of hate that word, but I still picked it up, and at some point I’m going to say it here, and people will look at me in horror. And then I will miss it.

26. People wearing tie-dye clothing by choice. I used to be embarrassed just to be in their general vicinity, but now I find it charming.

27. Riding over the Mario Cart symbols on N Williams.

28. Wandering the eerily preserved halls of the former Washington High School at 1 am and seeing weird art performances in the auditorium at TBA fest.

29. Attending First Thursday for the free booze, rather than the art.

30. Food carts.

31. The red nose they put on on the White Stag sign at Christmas.

32. The weirdness. Is Portland as weird as it purports to be? Maybe not. But it is a city where you might pass people jousting on tall bikes, dressed as pirates, naked, or wheeling a baby carriage full of dogs in Star Wars costumes and not raise an eyebrow. And that’s nice. Please see waytoomuchportland.tumblr.com for more.

33. The nerdyness. Portland is a pretty come-as-you-are city anyway, but if you like comics or gaming or computers or dressing-up or science or sci-fi, it is especially accommodating.

34. Tender Loving Empire compilations. They make the best gifts.

35. Winery-hopping in the Willamette Valley. With Ron!

36. The mountains. I used to mock Portlanders’ excitement whenever Mt Hood, Mt St Helens and… that other one were visible on the skyline. But damnit, once you’ve suffered through a long, grey winter, it actually is exciting when the pretty, pretty mountains appear.

37. The PSU Farmers Market.

38. PDX Pop Now!

39. How polite everyone is. Not something I noticed at the time, but in just the week since I moved to New York… wow.

40. Super cheap cocktails. Actually not just super cheap cocktails, but how unpretentious even the city’s best cocktail bars are, and all the lovely people I’ve met in the bartending community there.

41. The Horse Project (especially one I saw in St Johns that was actually a stegosaurus).

42. Being the only person in the theater at 10 pm, $5 Monday-night screenings at Living Room Theaters. I will not miss Living Room Theater screenings at all other times, which were packed with people who always seemed to be chewing lettuce and slurping soup in my ear.

43. @AncientPortland.

44. Day-long missions out to 82nd Ave. and back just to shop at a decent Asian supermarket, then trying to balance four bags of groceries on my bike handles all the way back.

45. Slurring drunk, incoherent thoughts at the poor Sizzle Pie staff at 3 am.

46. The view of the city from the Japanese Garden.

47. Tasty tap water.

48. Buying weird candy lollies from Candy Babel. I could also probably have just listed 50 awesome Portland stores here, but that seemed lazy and materialistic. But unlike most cool shops in Portland, which get written about over and over again until you want to scream “ENOUGH!”, this place never seemed to get the ink/pixels it deserved. The chick who runs it is lovely.

49. The St Johns Bridge. It scares me to be on it, but I love looking at it.

50. Never having to ask “Do you have vegetarian options?”


* Or Brooklyn. Some people seem to refer to Brooklyn as its own place and reserve “New York” for Manhattan? I never know what to say. I guess I’ll figure out what’s appropriate eventually.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nancy.rommelmann Nancy Rommelmann

    Love your list, and I’m from Brooklyn, which is Brooklyn, and the city is New York (which some people call Manhattan, but those people are not New Yorkers). You were a sparkling asset here; see you there.

    • http://www.stumpdinpdx.com Ruth

      So wait, if you were coming over here to visit, would you say to people in Portland “I’m going to New York” or “I’m going to Brooklyn”?

      • Corey

        New York is special. Five boroughs, of which Brooklyn is one. All count as New York City (except for certain a small and dwindling breed of Manhattan snobs).

        Inside New York, you’d say “I’m going to Brooklyn.” Outside New York, you’d say “I’m going to New York.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/nancy.rommelmann Nancy Rommelmann

    Love your list, and I’m from Brooklyn, which is Brooklyn, and the city
    is New York (which some people call Manhattan, but those people are not
    New Yorkers). You were a sparkling asset here; see you there. 

  • Devlyn

    I had one of those “mountains are awesome!” moments this morning. Riding the MAX over the Steel Bridge, the sun came out to blind me, and after a week of grey skies, I spotted Mt Hood. She was glorious and it seriously set my mood for the day. ^_^ 
    Hope you have a great time in NYC – it tires me out quickly, but it’s definitely a fun place to be.

  • EasternDave

    Love the list of yours.  It is always good (to me) to read/hear how others view Portland.  Now you are collecting memories of a new place. It has been said that it is best to enjoy the journey and the end will take care of itself.  With that thought in mind, I wish you a very Bon Voyage in the land of Brooklyn.