The people spoke and I heard them, they told me that Portland is weird. As a weird person, it was assumed that I would fit right in and love it. So, I had to investigate.
I like Portland a lot so far. I’m 2 days in and I have seen beautiful nature, beautiful man-made architecture, and generally, have been having a nice time… and walking SO much. My judgment on the weirdness, though?
More kilts per square mile than New York and New Jersey, sure. More hairy women and mohawks, I guess. Above all else, though, the thing that stands out as weird and uncomfortable and quite frankly, kind of scary is that it looks like Metho-potamia around here! The high rates of addiction in Portland make it the fourth highest in the US (while being ranked only 27th in population). In Portland, heroin use has risen so dramatically that it accounts for nearly as many deaths among young and middle-aged men as cancer or heart disease. On the bright side, cocaine-use has gone down. Of course, this is probably because everyone picked up meth and heroin instead, but… let’s not sweat the details here.
Turns out, Portland has become a hub in the Northwest drug trade due to its easy access to major highways, rail lines, and airports. Most of the drugs come along the I-5: Heroin, cocaine, meth, and marijuana up from Mexican cartels from the south and high-potency BC Bud and MDMA down from Canada in the north. There are stash houses all over the city… they probably won’t mention that during your hop-on-hop-off bus tour. I didn’t need anyone to tell me about the drug problem, though. After all, everyone in the West Coast drives everywhere! Anyone who isn’t driving is spending all their money elsewhere. You can guess where.
Dealing with the hunched over, grumbling, angry-yet-laughing “street folk” of Portland is not fun, nor is it funny. Amidst the needle exchanges, the Goodwill stores, the career services, and every other resource for the junkies, there is an endless parade of slogged and sad men and women who need money, food, drugs, and more drugs. Not to mention, the occasional flirting, which is just as horrifying to experience and witness as you would think. Hilp!
The mystery remains: is Portland weird? The Naked Bike Ride, free vacuum museum, and the kilts… so many kilts! Oh! And the craft store called Scraps. I’m not sure I can even explain that one. It’s like a craft store meets a hoarder’s closet meets the underside of a teenager’s bed. This town is definitely a promising start to something funky, but is it endearing? Not sure I can say it is. Unless you like weed (and various other drugs) and craft beer… maybe if you haven’t cooked a meal since 1982… or if you prefer your sky cloudy rather than sunny and clear. Then, yeah, Portland is a dream!
On the other hand, the roses? The views and hiking? Climbing the West Hills was one of the most intense and most worthwhile hikes I’ve ever experienced. Everyone was driving up to see Pittock Mansion, but they were missing out on the homes, the nature, the views of Portland… and the exercise! It was a sweaty and amazing time!
I also walked an hour to get to Food Fight! It was the mecca of the meth heads, but it would have been worth getting jumped or shanked. Between the vegan bakery, market, shop, and tattoo parlour, it was a really special vegan moment. Even if you need more vegan options, non-vegans options, and some deliciously nasty street food, there are over 600 food trucks around Portland from which you can choose. You know, the usual suspects of tacos and gyros, but also more nuanced and hip items. There’s something charming about a multitude of food options. I get so excited.
Then there’s Voodoo Doughtnuts, with vegan options, as most places have vegan options. West Coast people love their doughnuts, just add in their obsession with coffee and you’re set.
The book store “city” is a huge part of the city, as well. Powell’s is a 68,000-square-foot book palace. An entire block’s length of extremely organized but also a maddening labyrinth of real, live, true BOOKS. Just like the kind grandpa used to collect. If you’re into CDs and records, there are big shops for those, too. Whatever you’re into, there’s an excessively large place to get it.
If all else fails, Seattle is just 3 hours away! 😉