Portland is a crazy place.
(We just returned from a family vacation that included a few days in Portland.)
I knew that I wanted to get to know the city ever since seeing Portlandia.
I was not disappointed.
- Powell’s is perhaps the finest bookstore on the planet. Besides stocking an amazing range of books (both new and used), they have the most incredible array of stuff from interesting water bottles to funky backpacks to weird socks.
- Food trucks (often food trailers): a huge collection of semi-fast food outlets are all over the Portland, often in collections filling whole city blocks. Wide offerings of ethnic cuisine are available.
- Shops: If I were rich, I would have gorged on the incredible variety of clothing, trinkets, hand-made art in many useful forms such as furniture and all manner of hipster-oriented stuff. One of my favorite shops was Boys Fort.
- Bicycling: In spite of the generally dreary weather, bicycling is a huge part of life in Portland. Bike paths are prevalent across the city, and as our Airbnb hostess explained, bicyclists there often feel like they rule the world, whether or not that is the case.
- The river: Bike paths go along the Willamette River, allowing you to explore the waterway without getting wet (unless it’s raining).
- Trash: There are very few trash cans around the city. Thus, trash accumulates in all the nooks and crannies. Seattle, in comparison, seems to have a normal amount of places to dispose of your waste.
- Homelessness: I’m not sure what attracts so many homeless people to Portland. Denver, the city near my suburban home, seems to have a smaller homeless population. I have nothing against homeless people — drug addiction and mental illness are crippling — but perhaps Denver provides more places for the homeless to find a home. Or possibly Colorado has more restrictive laws governing homeless activities (like no sleeping on sidewalks).
- Maybe a little too much indie-hipster-ness: Though I love supporting small businesses and appreciate creativity, I was almost overwhelmed at the extreme hipster-ness of Portland. One morning, I even wanted to visit Starbucks, believe it or not.
If you can, you simply must visit greater Portland.
Footnote: I only spent a few days there, so these are just a few surface observations.
I love freedom. But when freedom costs me something that could be easily avoided, I pause.
For people living in the US, depending on your state, you can ride a motorcycle with out a helmet. It’s super enjoyable to zoom along with the wind in your hair.
But then that driver doesn’t see you, he turns into your lane — and your dreams of motorcycling disappear into years of surgeries, physical therapy and pain.
This is not theoretical — a good friend of mine experienced that. And he was wearing a helmet.
So here’s the selfish part of the equation… when the helmet-less rider ends up in the hospital with years of medical appointments ahead, it costs me. My insurance premiums rise.
The same holds true for bicycle riding.
I have to admit that I am not super rigid on that — sometimes when I go for a quick ride to the corner store on my (slow) mountain bike, I don’t put on a helmet. And yes, I know that most accidents happen closest to home.
So I leave it up to you where you draw the line between your freedom and your responsibility to society.
The photo is Creative Commons licensed by Sara y Tzunki (Cecilia e Francesco) and was taken in Phnom Penh.
Art is very subjective. One person’s favorite is another’s hated reject.
But when art meets commerce — what used to be called, “commercial art,” there is another standard. It must communicate.
The artists behind the signage of the new Littleton Village, a residential and commercial development near my home, crossed the edge a little too far:
1. At each edge of the main corner’s signage area, there are two obelisks that look like something from a science fiction movie.
2. During the day, shadows hinder readability of the development’s name.
3. What’s with those white vertical stripes? Before the development name went up, I thought they were giant adhesive strips to adhere the development’s name. No. They are not lighted, either. And then there are a bunch of holes that look like ventilation for an underground chamber.