22 October, 2014
Portland: Land of Unicorns, Food Trucks, and FreecyclingPosted in : Experience Portland on by : nommom
There is a passive-aggressive tension between Seattle and Portland. Seattle seems to regard Portland as its Pacific Northwest younger sibling – smaller, less worldly, yet adorable in its attempts to impress itself upon the world. Portland regards Seattle much like one would an older sibling – believing the latter to be snobbish, unrecognizing of Portland’s contributions (the popularity of the full, yet neatly trimmed beard; burgeoning food truck population and hipster culture all took deeper root here in Portland first), and believing Seattle thinks itself so much better when it really isn’t (at least to those who reside here).
Having lived in Seattle a number of years, I can vouch more for the notion that Seattlites view Portland as a quaint little sister than I can vouch for Portland’s view of Seattle. Having been here almost a month I am feeling more of the ebb and flow of Portlandia and am becoming somewhat enamored by its charms.
Strangers are friendlier to one another. I cannot walk anywhere without someone stopping me to compliment my boy. In my first exercise class at the local gym the two women next to me conversed briefly with me. Cashiers are chattier. Even the homeless seem, overall, less agitated here.
The Trees appear even more numerous and gleeful than Seattle. I fell in love with Seattle because of it’s greenery, but dare I say Portland seems vastly greener. And there is something about the trees here – I’ve noticed they appear to be even more robust, verdant, and lush than the ones back home.
Parking is much easier to find, no matter where you are. I have yet to drive in circles for 5-10 minutes or more to find parking downtown or elsewhere. Downtown meters are not free on Sundays but are only $1.60 per hour and are rarely enforced if you return to your car 20-30 minutes late (so far!)
Trucks Gone Wild The success of the food truck scene has led to the expansion of service trucks; I’ve seen a florist truck and a hair salon in a couple of the food truck pods here in town. While – generally speaking – you can get great food at any food truck I would avoid the ones downtown and hit up a nearby neighborhood for a food truck pod. The downtown trucks have consistently been mediocre to disappointing (this includes the Saturday market trucks), while the smaller pods in Southeast have been consistently delicioso. Hey, Seattle – anticipate being able to get your beard trimmed or bikini line waxed in a mobile unit near you soon.
As an aside, Portlanders also seem to be better drivers in all sorts of weather. Unlike Seattle, they don’t seem to be phased by rain, sun or anything other than overcast weather. Hmmm.
There are a couple of things which perplex me about Portland. Like regional phrases and idioms a foreigner never truly understands, I don’t know that I’ll ever quite get the following:
Unicorn Obsession – Portland has some special affinity for unicorns that I cannot find an explanation for. Unicorn decor is used by several local businesses, there’s a food truck called the Angry Unicorn (?!?) and then there’s this:
Leaving cardboard boxes of your unwanted crap on all the sidewalks everywhere.
Sometimes the dumper bothers to write “FREE” with a ballpoint pen on the side of the cardboard box – but not often. It’s frequent enough that if there is a box on the sidewalk, assume it’s contents are up for grabs. Old shoes, food, clothing, anything and everything can be yours! I’ll admit, I’m of two minds on this; I appreciate the locals’ freecycling and waste reduction efforts but it does trash up otherwise nice neighborhoods and it isn’t as though there is a lack of charities that accept food and clothing donations.
Weird Recycling Rules
Portland accepts only certain plastics for recycling, and no lids whatsoever. Some recyclables will be picked up by the city, but not all. It’s up to the honorable citizen of Portland to know what recyclables the city has deemed worth collecting (yes, it changes), to make sure your appropriate plastics are recycled at the proper location. Much plastic gets trashed.
Inconsistencies with Popular Grocers
One of the biggest and most popular natural markets in the Portland area is a loud and proud supporter of the GMO labeling initiative and takes great strides in assuring their consumers that their meat and dairy is sustainable and humanely sourced. However, said grocer also sells Red Vines, Formula 409, and Snickers bars – owned by companies actively donating money against GMO labeling. New Seasons is a privately owned company, so I don’t get the disconnect here between word and action. I also have perceived Portland to be even more socially progressive, locavore, and environmentalist than their northern sibling, so the acceptance of this inconsistency is quite a surprise. I’ll be writing them about it to see what’s up.
All in all I am feeling more relaxed and spacious these days; this is likely more due to the absence of moving-related stressors. Squish started walking a week after we arrived here and is going through some challenging developmental pieces and integrating a lot physically and mentally right now; that is not without it’s challenging days. On the plus side, all that extra movement during the day has him sleeping more deeply at night when we are able to get him down. He’s getting attention from more adults (friends and friends of friends) than he has in awhile and is blossoming under these interactions. We had quite a successful Canmerican Thanksgiving last weekend which I will write up shortly. It’s been a lovely trip thus far – hard to believe we are already halfway through it!