Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Portland Pod People
They're everywhere in Portland, Oregon. If you live there you're probably one of them and if you have ever visited you've come into contact with them.
At first they're scary, just as any pod person would be but after you're around them a bit you come accustomed to their ways, their habits, the way they communicate. It's alarming at first, you want to trust them but you're a foreigner on a foreign planet and then without knowing it you accept them for who they are and what they offer. And before you know it you too, are acting just like a Portland Pod Person: you're nice and courteous. Like these strange creatures who say "thank you" and mean it, you naturally reciprocate and two difficult words slip effortlessly from your lips, "your welcome."
When you ask Portlanders for directions they look you in the eyes and take the time to give you the instructions based on your needs not theirs. And most of all these wonderful and rare people - each and everyone of them is a true City ambassador. They tout the economic, environmental and friendliness of their city every chance they have. Come on, move here, you'll love it! Is their mantra. All this was not experienced on occasion, it was consistent for the two weeks I recently spent their after running what Runner's World deemed the "most friendly marathon in the USA." When my wife and I went to the movies (just $7 compared with $11 in NYC) the ticket taker welcomed us with soft and sincere eyes and said, "enjoy the movie." She really meant it! If that were not enough when we found that the only available seats in the theater were in the first row they refunded our money with no questions asked and then apologized for the inconvenience! Try getting that kind of service on 42nd Street In Manhattan.
Just who are these people and who took their anger, resentment and edginess? My wife Terry and I joked that we should open a restaurant called the Bitter and Jaded and offer lousy food with a side of New York style attitude. That will teach these poor saps to be so nice. Transplants Sue and Barry who recently left the Astoria, NY apartment building where we live met us for an incredible French style breakfast at St. Honoré Boulangerie. They are still adjusting to the change in energy from NYC to the City of Roses. They left the Big Apple and its intensity for a slower pace in Portland but admitted that they had a longing for New York's insanity. As Sue put it, it's sick but you always miss your abuser but she also informed us that they wouldn't be moving back East anytime soon, as the "people here are so nice."
It is just this sincere 'niceness' that Portland has jumped to the top of our relocation list. What other city do you know would meet you for an hour over coffee to answer your questions and explain all the great reasons you should live in their fair metropolis? Yes, they did! Public Advocate Jeremy Van Keuren met with us at one of the City's attractions, Stump Town Coffee Roasters prepared with city data, handouts and charm abound. (Prior to our Portland trip I also wrote to the mayor of Seattle requesting a meeting but didn't receive a reply.) One other really important aspect of Portland life is that believe it or not pedestrians and cyclist supersede vehicles! That's right, no battles at the crosswalks and no honking of horns when crossing the street. All this adds to the peace and tranquility of the City.
We also met with a couple that I met on the streets of Miami this past August who have lived in Portland for over twenty years. They're ex-New Yorkers who have come to love Portland and the state of Oregon. Bob and Elaine took us to a sustainability investor's meeting so that we could be introduced to like minded people and see just how committed the citizens of Portland are to the preservation of theirs and our environment. We than went to a Thai restaurant that had some of the most delicious Thai food I have ever eaten. Afterwards they drove us to their condo (the advice, "don't let them take you to a second location" popped into my head as we proceeded down a dark I-5 locked in the back of their car) so that we could get a feel for the neighborhood and see what square footage is worth. (They took us back to our hotel unharmed.)
These pod people are the real McCoy. They're just what I've been looking for and they're located in a city that has arts, restaurants, entertainment, sports, intellectuals and books abound. Hats off to Portland and the people who make it such a wonderful place!