Day 351

This place is absolutely stunning at night. No matter how many times I walk around the downtown area after sunset, I always find a wealth of new gorgeous neon signs and mesmerizing hilltop views. It’s almost as if a wonderful transformation takes place once you can no longer see the high-rises and skyscrapers. After the night sky consumes the tallest buildings and top floors, you’re left with streets lined with holiday lights; lampposts adorned with red ribbon and bows; and immaculately crafted storefront displays. That's why after two weeks, I still believe Portland truly is a small town masquerading as a big city.

While I was saddened to learn that not many people reside in this beautiful downtown area, it does lead me into something else I’ve been meaning to write about. Over the past couple months I kept hearing that Portlandians are becoming more and more frustrated by the number of residential buildings being raised in the area. To me, this was all rather confusing, because I saw a lot more residential construction in Austin and Seattle. Thankfully, after asking around this weekend, I was finally able to shed some light on this common assumption. It turns out there’s an anger boiling under the surface, because many people feel all these new high-rises will eventually cause the city to lose that “small town” charm I was just talking about. Not to mention, it could lead to a massive rent increase. 

Honestly, I can’t say I blame them. The #1 trend I’ve seen amongst new buildings—from Boston and Charlotte to Austin and Seattle—is that they each feature all-glass façades, even if it doesn’t fit into the surrounding architecture. I’m not saying I’m an expert on any of this, but after traveling this long, it’s certainly noticeable and a tad bit alarming. One of the best parts of this entire trip is seeing how each city is different. Yet, if we continue to erect these cookie-cutters constructions, we’ll wind up stripping all of our homes of their individuality. And that would be a shame, if you ask me. I’m sure there’s an underlying story about citizen responsibility and local government participation here, but I’ll refrain from going off on a tangent today and just leave it at that. I know this is a topic I briefly touched upon back in March and to see the trend continue all the way across the country is a bummer. That's why I decided to bring it up.

Aside from opinions on architecture and city planning, I also learned a few other things about Portland. I discovered that this city loves Chuck Palahniuk. How can I be so sure? Well, I ended up spending my entire Saturday afternoon inside Powell’s City of Books, just to get his signature. Granted, it’s an absolutely amazing bookstore and Chuck is one of my personal inspirations. But, by no means was I expecting to be waiting in line for 4+ hours. To put it into perspective—a Cavs game started when I first entered the line and ended 15 minutes before I secured said signature. For as frustrated as I was though, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Palahniuk. He ended up signing books for a total of 8 hours (that I know of). I applaud him for his dedication; that’s for sure.

The final thing I learned is that Portland and snow do not mix. There was a light dusting of powder late last week and it basically shut the entire city down. It’s odd, because I would’ve assumed they deal with a lot of snow here. Turns out that's not the case. I’ve been told the area only has one or two snowfalls a year. I guess it has something to do with the nearby mountains. Being a hardened Clevelander, it didn’t seem so bad to me. But, believe me when I say, there was barely a soul downtown that morning. Which is a shame, because Portland is absolutely beautiful in the winter. Hell, this place is beautiful all the time. I guess that’s what it comes down to. So, I’ll end this blog by saying that I side with all Portlandians who want to ensure it stays that way.

 P.S. — I did an early morning hike through MacLeay Park on Saturday and for the record, I didn’t get lost this time. I’ll go ahead and chalk that up as a victory.

-Steve-

Day 337

Hello, Portland!

Well, it’s officially month #12, which means we’re almost at the year mark. I haven’t let that slow me down though. As soon as I got settled into my new digs, I immediately set out to explore Portland and all of the wonderful things it has to offer. Admittedly, I did manage to get lost a few times, but all is well, as I ended up finding a bunch of great bars and shops I plan on checking out during my stay here.

Right off the bat, I can already tell that Portland has a much different vibe than any place I’ve already visited. Sure, it shares a slogan with Austin and a region with Seattle, but Portland feels like a different beast entirely. There aren’t many skyscrapers here and the rain hasn’t stopped since I first stepped off the train. Yet, this place is oozing charm. It’s nestled in the mountains, overflowing with quaint shops and eateries and quite frankly, if you told me every Hollywood scene depicting a “small town” was filmed here, I’d have a hard time not believing you.

Things are a lot quieter here. And after spending Saturday night walking around the downtown area, I think I can confirm that not much is going on there after hours—save a few nightclubs and concert venues. Of course, this is only downtown we’re talking about. There’s still an entire east side and north side that I need to check out. It is kind of nice to see that all of the opinions about Portland I received from Seattleites are actually ringing true. People here are friendlier, more active and seemingly a little more patient. Of course, these are all characteristics you’d find in Seattle, but here it's just turn it up a notch or two.  

What else did I learn this weekend? Let’s see. Portland has a pretty great streetcar system! While I’ve learned to enjoy my endless walks around town, I feel as if the constant rain is finally going to get the better of me and force my hand when it comes to using public transportation. I can also see that Portland has a rather large vagrant population, which is something I first came upon in Austin and then again in Seattle. I’m not sure if there's a pattern, but the average age of the drifters I see seems to get younger and younger the further west I go. They also seem better prepared for the weather, having tents, camping stoves and a variety of other equipment in their oversized backpacks. Obviously, I’m not making any sort of comment on the situation by mentioning it, I’m just sharing my observations. Also, I'm not talking about homeless people in general. Obviously, I've seen homeless people all over the country. That's a whole other conversation, if you ask me. 

But, before we get into a debate about all of that, I just wanted to forewarn everyone that the next few months are going to be a little weird because of the holidays. I’m only at Pollinate for 3.5 weeks due to Thanksgiving and the same goes for the Evolution Bureau, since they close the office early for Christmas and New Years. Of course, spending two holiday weeks alone doesn’t sound like much fun. So, I might switch things up a bit and find myself a temp job for the holidays, just to ensure I’m not sitting on my ass. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure—the final three months of #TGAA are going to be rather interesting.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's my first day at Pollinate and I don't want to be late! 

-Steve-

Day 295

Ok… so last week, I tried my best to describe Austin’s culture. Well, I’m now ready to state—without a shadow of a doubt—that Austin is the party school equivalent of a city. Why? It could be the plethora of bars and liquor stores that encompass the area. Or perhaps it’s the ever-present food trucks and BBQ joints that scream ‘hangover food’. It just seems like everyone here is having a party and someone forgot to write in a closing time. Then again, I also think it says something about the type of people that live here. Austin is a young city filled with a vibrant culture and a colorful cast of characters.

Perhaps that’s why this place is known for its countless music venues and hundreds of great local acts. Everyone here seems to have a simple goal in mind: work hard and party hard. The people here just want to enjoy the city, while preserving the small, the local and the unique. It all seems rather wonderful to me and I'm certainly not the only one. I mean, given that close to 100 people are moving here every day, I’d have to assume they’re doing something right, after all.

But there’s something that interests me even more about Austin. It doesn’t really have a downtown area—at least not like those I’ve come across in other cities. Take a quick glance at the skyline and you’ll see that many of their skyscrapers are spread out from one another. Of course, based on the number of construction sites, I’d assume that’s going to change within the next few years. But for now, it's a string of small shops, eateries and parking lots that connect these more visible spaces.

In a way, it all harkens back to that 'party school' attitude. Locals just prefer small and casual over big and sterile. You won’t see many chains around the city and don’t even think about asking where the nearest Walmart is. Instead, you can’t help but take in the wares of resident artisans; dine amongst chefs who’ve spent decades perfecting their crafts; and move your feet to the sounds of Austin’s incredible indie bands. It’s all a big ol’ party indeed.

Yes, there truly is something awe-inspiring about this city. It changes you. It invites you in and with a southern drawl says, “Stay as long as you like.” There’s always something going on somewhere and even the most public of events will make you feel as if you’re ‘in the know’. I guess that’s what some people find so charming about Austin. It’s fun here and you’ll never hear a single soul try to make excuses for it.

-Steve-