A Few Tips on How to Survive the Rain in Portland, OR

DITCH THE UMBRELLA – This may seem counterproductive, but let me assure you, most people who have grown up in the Willamette Valley do NOT use an umbrella. There may be the rare occasion if you are incredibly dressed up, with a hairdo that will not fit underneath a hood, but seriously, consider how much of a pain umbrellas are. They add to the amount of space you must occupy walking down the street. You are constantly looking out to make sure the wiry ends don’t poke someone in the eye. They get pulled, tugged, and tossed by the blowing wind. They drip mercilessly, leaving a “puddly” mess every time you find shelter indoors.  All in all, you are better off skipping the fight (and later, dead weight) of carting around this contraption. Instead…

INVEST IN A GOOD RAINCOAT – Being that Oregon is an incredibly outdoor oriented state, finding a store that can sell you a decent raincoat is not going to be an issue. Make sure to opt for one that is waterPROOF, not water RESISTANT. Trust me, when you are soaking wet at the start of the fourth quarter of a football game where it has been drizzling/raining all day, you will wish you had. Additionally, don’t worry about getting an incredibly heavy coat. You can always layer more shirts or a sweatshirt underneath, but rain in Oregon does not necessarily mean it is going to be cold.

DO NOT FEAR THE OUTDOORS – During the summer times, we cannot help but seek out water. From the beach to the lake to the pool, the summer months seems to be an endless quest to be outdoors, having fun, and getting completely soaked. Why should that suddenly change when the water is brought to you? I am not advocating swimming in a puddle (although jumping in them can be quite fun). Instead, don your new raincoat and go for a walk. Enjoy the fact that the sun isn’t beating down on you, and the air is permeated with the fresh scent of rain. (Don’t lie, everyone loves that smell.) Reality is, if everyone living in Portland stayed indoors until the rain stopped, the city would be a virtual ghost town all year except for mid-June through most of September. Last time I checked, that clearly wasn’t the case.

ENJOY THE RAIN FROM INSIDE – Even with the last tip, I must admit there are some days that are simply going to be I-don’t-want-to-go-outside-rainy. Whether it is because we are in the middle of a particularly vicious downpour, or the excess grayness has got you feeling a little blah, do not let remaining inside become a negative. Look at the rain as a great motivator to catch up on that book you started a month ago. Build a fire. Start a project. Bake some cookies. Or maybe you could simply use the weather as a guilt-free excuse to snuggle up on the couch and watch your favorite movies all day. To be clear, making a habit of all-day-movie-marathons probably isn’t a great idea, but the once-in-a-while-rainy-day-film-fest is just fine.

Is this really better than Anthrax?

As I have mentioned before, I don’t exactly live or work in the nicest part of town. There are crazies on the MAX, homeless on the streets, and piss on the sidewalks. So it should come as no surprise that a certain individual near my office has taken it upon himself to add to the delirium

Perhaps he is unstable. Maybe it’s a fetish. There is also the slight chance that he simply hates the US postal service. Regardless of the reason, this particular creature decided to make a very public “genetic deposit” (as my coworker put it) into the curbside mailbox across the street from my work building. And the scary reality is, he can’t possibly be the ONLY one.

So now, my heart goes out, both to the postal workers who have to deal with this sort of craziness on a regular basis, as well as the two poor little curbside mailboxes in the area that had to be removed. All that remains are some sad little bolts on the sidewalk. And all I can think is: What is gonna happen next? Oh P-Town

 

ABCs of P-Town (part 3: M-P)

Made in Oregon sign – It may not actually say “Made in Oregon” anymore, but this always was and will be how I remember the sign from growing up here. Perched atop the White Stag Building on the West end of the Burnside Bridge, this iconic landmark has lit up the Portland skyline since 1941. Of course, then it read “White Stag Sugar” to advertise a specific sugar brand to all the city. In the years following the original lettering, the sign has also said “White Stag” and “Made in Oregon” before finally becoming the “Portland, Oregon” you can see today. And while it seems people are happy with the current lettering, there was much dispute a few years ago when word first got out that the “Made in Oregon” was going to change. Most of this was in protest to the sign being changed to “University of Oregon,” a college based in Eugene but with multiple Portland-based programs and leasing the building the sign sits upon. (The lease extended to the rooftop, thus including the sign.) Instead, after much debate, the UO decided to simply not continue the lease (on the rooftop, that is, you can still find them in the White Stag Building) and the city took over. That is when the lettering was changed to the current “Portland, Oregon” with “Old Town” in the smaller lettering underneath.

At least, through all these changes, on thing remained the same. You will always see a red rudolph nose lit up on the white stag around the holiday.

Nicknames – So far throughout these posts, I am sure you have noticed me call Portland a few things other than its official name. The truth is, Portland goes by many different names. To begin with, if you ever get a txt referring to the city from a local, do not be surprised to find “Portland” has been shortened to “PDX” the code identifying its international airport. This is a common occurrence, especially with the exponentially growing use of social media and electronic communication. And going along with this trend, another shortening for Portland is (can you guess? it’s the title of this post for crying out loud) P-Town! Other nicknames may derive from some sort of city history or background. “Stumptown” came to be during the time that Portland was a hub for the logging industry, leaving stumps everywhere, and “Little Beirut” was bequeathed upon Portland by George Bush’s staff after several encounters with the city’s protestors. Additional names include Bridgetown (not hard to figure out why)

as well as RIP City (added recently, thanks to the Portland Trailblazers). Officially, Portland’s nickname is the Rose City, and you can find that correlation EVERYWHERE. There are the International Rose Test Gardens, the annual Rose Festival, the Rose Parade, the Rose Quarter… “Rose City” is even prominent in many a Timbers Army chant(don’t worry, I will get to what the TA is later). I guess when it come to Portland, once name just wasn’t enough.

One-way Streets – I once heard Portland referred to as a game of Battleship – streets going alphabetically one way, and numerically the other. (Really, this is only in the Alphabet District) Thus, you would think with a little common sense, it would make it very easy for someone to find their way around. Enter the one-way street. Portland is rife with one-way streets. This city thrives on them, collects them like old stamps, and uses them against unsuspecting visitors as a way to trap them here FOREVER. Okay, maybe that is a little much, but I have been living here almost my entire life and I STILL will find myself driving around in circles once in a while. Add in a few bike lanes here and there, a “bus only” lane than seems to magically appear in front of you, and a few sets of MAX tracks, no wonder you can always see people walking along the sidewalk as opposed to braving the metropolis maze. Truth be told, it isn’t really that bad, but just make sure you give yourself plenty of extra time if you plan to drive downtown for something. Because, after all the circling around, honking, and last-minute turns… you are still going to need to find a parking spot.

Portlandia – No, I am not talking about the IFC show about this wonderful city… although I do need to catch up on my episodes. Portland, Oregon is home to second largest copper statue in the United States (the first being the Statue of Liberty) Portlandia (and it’s not green either!). You can find this statue downtown at 1120 SW 5th Avenue. Just look up. There, staring down from the Michael Graves’ Portland Building, is a piece of art that many people don’t even know exists. Admittedly, when the trees are in full bloom and you are speed walking back to your office building, it’s easy to miss. Nevertheless, it is a fairly impressive sight (with informational plaque across the street) to check out if you find yourself meandering around downtown with a little extra time.

ABCs of P-Town (part 2: I-L)

Alright bloggers, here is another little snippet:

International – No, I am not referring to PDX, Portland’s International Airport. Nor am I speaking of the multiple ethnic restaurants and food carts around the area (although, if you have a chance, they are definitely worth a taste).  Instead, I am talking about Portland’s overall acceptance, abundance, and celebration of different national cultures. There are, of course, the expected celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Irish Festival,  and Oktoberfest. (The last link is probably the most prominent of Oregon’s Oktoberfests, at Mt. Angel, but if you are looking for one that is actually closer to downtown Portland, check out the events page for Oaks Amusement Park.) But then Portland takes it a step further. Other festivals throughout the year include the Festa Italiana, the Greek Festival, the India Festival,  the Chinese New Year, and, an event I have yet to see but am definitely going to mark on my calendar, the Portland Highland Scottish Games.

Japanese Gardens – A popular tourist site, the Japanese Garden is really something to see. Nestled next to the International Rose Gardens and walking distance to the Wildwood Trail, you could easily spend an entire day enjoying mother nature at her finest. Picturesque bridges, steps, streams and fountains mingle gracefully with the surrounding flora. In addition to its beautiful landscaping, the Japanese Garden also is host to multiple events and festivals throughout the year. There is even a free admission day for those on a tight budget. (Veteran’s Day)

Klickitat Street – For those who grew up reading the many children’s books written by Beverly Clearly, Klickitat Street should definitely be ringing a few bells. This is the street the famous little Ramona Quimby (and her older sister Beezus, of course) grew up on. Haha, I still love recalling the book where the two girls complain about cow tongue and are forced to make dinner for the family the following. Not knowing how to check first for ingredients, Ramona and Beezus end up making a simple dinner of rice, chicken, and cornbread include substitutions of banana yogurt, cream of wheat, and chili powder.  In their world, one could also hope to run into Otis, Ribsy, Henry, and many more Cleary characters. Well, actually, you might run into a few of those characters too. Near Klickitat, in Grant Park, there are a few bronze statues, erected in 1991, depict Henry Huggins, Ribsy, and Ramona Quimby.

Light Rail – While Portland (and let’s face it, the U.S. in general) is waaaaaay behind Europe when it comes to public transportation, it does do it’s part with the Trimet MAX or Light Rail. The Light Rail here consists of 4 different lines (Blue, Red, Yellow, and Green) that run from various metropolitan areas into downtown and back out again. This provides an easy way to get around, a relief from the task of finding a parking spot, and a daily dose of entertainment. (see my earlier post, Trimet). And no Light Rail is going to give you more of this than the eastern Blue Line, which runs into from Gresham (deep SE Portland) out to Hillsboro. Simply put,  SE Portland people are CRAZY.  (Again, read my earlier post, but know I see far-fetched variations of those interactions almost every day.) Even so, the Light Rail really is the trick to getting to and from the airport without the hassle or cost of a taxi, or to Jeld-Wen field to cheer on the Portland Timbers, or even to see an a capella group randomly break into song. You may know where you are going, but you can never be sure what you will see along the way.

The ABCs of P-Town (part 1: A-H)

I was originally going to make this all one post, but, since I am too impatient to wait until Z (in my defense, going through the entire alphabet takes a while), and the end result would end up being some ungodly length anyways, I am just going to break this down into parts. The final post will have the entire alphabet so no one has to jump around for the complete list. But until then, here is A-H.

Alphabet District – How perfectly appropriate that we start the ABCs of Portland with the Alphabet District, which is, I must admit, one of my favorite areas in the city. First, there are dozens of smaller shops, boutiques, and restaurants that provide a lovely departure from the main stream mall feel and bustle that surrounds Pioneer Place everyday. Second, there are more than enough unique and charming older style houses to give you that warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia… even if you, like me, are only 23 years old. And if nostalgia isn’t for you, maybe recognizing a few Simpson’s characters in street names might brighten your day. (Matt Groening is from Portland, after all.) Finally, as the name would suggest, the streets within the Alphabet District are, indeed, in alphabetical order, beginning with Burnside and heading North. Add to that the numbered avenues running perpendicular and finding any address suddenly became 10x easier.

Burnside – Aside from being a Bridge and a great place to meet Bums (I am on a roll with this letter) Burnside St. is also unique in that it is a very handy navigational landmark for finding your way around Portland. In the greater downtown area, if you see any address or street labeled “NW” or “NE” you will know that you are North of Burnside. Likewise, “SW” and “SE” refer to any location South of the street. Just remember not to try this same trick if you end up too far out in the ‘burbs’ or Beaverton. Then again, why would you go there in the first place?

Costumes – Portlanders absolutely love to dress up (or down in the case of the annual Naked Bike Ride). From body and face paint, to drag, to some of the most outrageous/unique/creative outfits you can think of, there are hundreds of costumes and literally dozens of opportunities to wear them throughout the year. One is very likely to see attire fall short of the norm at the The Starlight Run, SantaCon, PDX Hunt, Urban Iditarod, One Mile Drag Race, Zombie Walk, Tour de Lab… just to name a few.

Donuts – For those who live in Portland, or who just watch the Travel Channel or Food Network a lot, it should be no surprise that Voodoo Donuts made this list. These lovely deep-fried creations are delicious, no doubt, but that isn’t the only reason that Voodoo has become such a staple and tourist attraction in the Rose City. The shop itself is an experience, a far departure from the boring task of grabbing your sugar fix from Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme.  Voodoo boasts innuendos in its slogan and menu items, some truly unique looking and tasting fare, legally binding wedding ceremonies, and, most recently, a world record for the largest box of donuts. Did I also mention they make a special Blood Filled Voodoo doughnuts depicting the Portland Timber’s opponent before each match? Well, they do that too.  Just make sure you are willing to stand in line for the donutty experience. So far this year, I have yet to see it any shorter than around the corner from the original shop downtown. The Magic is in the Hole.

East Bank Esplanade  – Much to the dismay of my boyfriend, this esplanade is how I am able to torture him every sunny day as I take my lunch hour. By connecting this pathway to the Tom McCall Waterfront via the Hawthorne and Steel bridge, I have a lovely, nearly 3 mile loop to stroll along, admire the Portland cityscape, and catch a little bit of my daily dose of Vitamin D. Any time the weather warms, you can expect to see numerous people walking, running, or cycling along this loop, or connecting it to the Springwater Corridor that runs further South. Warning: while most of the walk is enjoyable, there are a few smelly areas (hey, it is on the Willamette), but not to worry, the worst parts are on the west side so you may not even notice them.

Farmer’s Market – When it comes to food, Portland, in general, has a wonderful selection of restaurants, bars, and even some amazing food carts. But if you are looking to add the warm fuzzy feeling of helping a local grower out (while still noshing on something delectable) then the Farmer’s Market is definitely the place to go. I usually frequent the one up near PSU (Portland State University) where I can find anything from homemade tamales, to just-picked berries, to sweet baked goods, and even some fresh fish or amazing smoked salmon. It really is a great place to wander around, listen to a little music, and enjoy a market focused on food without all the crazy that is the larger Saturday Market down near Skidmore Fountain (although that can be fun as well). Just remember to watch your waistline and wallet in these parts. With all the good grub at Farmer’s Market, it becomes almost too easy to over-indulge.

Green – When thinking of a typical city most people will picture paved roads, skyscrapers, congestions, noise and traffic, among other things. But something that Portland adds to this black and gray concrete jungle is green, a lot of it. Portland is home to the largest inner city park in the United States. Sorry New York, but Central Park couldn’t beat this one. Forest Park, located in the West Hills of Portland, is filled tall trees, lush flora, and an escape that will make you forget how close to the city you really are. There are miles upon miles of trails suitable for a simple stroll, a nice run, or a walk with man’s best friend. And these trails don’t just take you in circles either. Local and historical attractions can be found throughout Forest Park and its interconnecting trails such as Council Crest, the Oregon Zoo, Washington Park, the International Rose Test Gardens, Pittock Mansion, the Vietnam Memorial…  or you can just lose yourself somewhere on the 30 miles of the Wildwood Trail, all while forgetting you are still in the city.

Hollywood – Yes, there is a Hollywood in Oregon… well a Hollywood District. But don’t be fooled by the name. It is definitely not as glamorous as its California counterpart. Portland’s Hollywood has a little more of an indie/bohemian feel and it is not necessarily the place I would want to be after dark… then again, most places out in SE or deep SE Portland are probably areas best avoided at night. One of the neatest things about this District, however, is the Hollywood Theater. A historic Portland Landmark, this not-for-profit theater is often showing movies you are not likely to find anywhere near a mainstream cinema. Older movies, film festivals indie flicks, and student shorts are the main sources of entertainment in this building, making the Hollywood Theater a great alternative to some over-sold blockbusters. 

Trimet

Thanks to my new job, I am proud to say I am now included among the throngs of Portlanders who opt for public transportation (via Trimet MAX) each day. I can breeze by the bottleneck on I-84 and turn a blissful deaf ear to the accident reports on the radio. Instead, I just cruise along in a Pringles can on rails (Ray, I am giving you partial credit for that reference), listening to my iPod and waiting for  “Old Town/Chinatown” to light up on the overhead monitor.

But Trimet does even more for me than get me from A to B. Oh yes. The MAX provides me not only a ride but also entertainment with almost every single ticket purchase. Some of this, of course, come as very typical and predictable passengers/behavior considering school is currently out for the summer and the MAX runs right by the mall. I truly can’t remember the last time I heard “like” so many times or was confronted by such an incredible amount of eyeliner (both on boys and girls). But there is also the lady that dresses like it’s still 1950 and talks about how she is currently encouraging her husband to invent personal bio-domes. And the overprotective grandmother, guarding her granddaughter with an evil eye and a below-the-shoulder mullet. Let’s not forget Portland’s own bearded lady, or at least the woman I saw heading home with a five o’clock shadow, nor shall overlook the young man sweetly serenading the MAX schedule at my stop. And, finally, the Taco Bell employee who decided to give career advice to my incredibly IT savvy and successfully employed boyfriend.

Now, all this isn’t to say I take everything in stride, smiling the whole time and letting the slightly off-kilter Trimet tourists be the cherry on top of my daily sundae. I definitely have my days when the crying children and the girl bragging about sneaking on to ride for free get to me. (I paid nearly $90 for such an experience, after all!) But when it comes down to it, I feel good about writing the MAX. There are no idiot drivers to worry about, it’s environmentally friendly, and, if nothing else, it is worth the stories.