Ok, no time for serious analysis but I do have a few fleeting impressions from my week-long stint in Oregon.
While I’m not crazy about NYC, I have to say that I’ve grown to prefer it. It’s dirty and there are too many people but I don’t have patience to be an Oregonian. I forgot there was a crime people actually took seriously called jaywalking. I can’t fucking believe that people actually stand on the corner waiting for lights to change even when there is zero traffic in sight. I get fed up the occasional slow pedestrian in NYC so I had to force myself not to bust a gasket over a city of leisurely strollers who stop at Don’t Walk signals. On the other hand, the rule following and slowness makes for easy driving. Plus, no one honks. While waiting for a red light to change leaving Newark airport, cars behind us were honking. That’s just what drivers do. If you hesitate one-half second at a green light you will get honked at. A full five seconds (count that aloud) might pass in Portland before someone notices and no one would dare honk at the offender, it does make yielding to oncoming traffic a snap. I’ve learned to embrace the snooze or lose meanness.
Early to bed, early to rise. It’s not uncommon to start work at 10am (me) or 11am here while in Portland people start at 4am because they have to (my step-dude) or 7am on their own (self-employed fashion designer friend). This is likely why the streets are empty at 10pm, though to be fair, Carroll Gardens is also a ghost town after 9pm on week nights. I am now exhausted and unrested from maintaining my exact Mon-Fri NYC schedule, in bed by 1am and up at 8:30am (which technically meant 4am-11:30am, NYC time, more of a weekend schedule) the past week. Normally, I don’t get up at 8:30am willingly but it was a concession to family members who have no trouble being up and out of the house at 6am. Meeting for breakfast at 10am during vacation is as early as I can muster and I would prefer noon. This is why on normal vacations I only eat two meals: lunch and dinner.
Ugly shoes. Ok, sensible. I’m totally a flats-wearer, occasional heel-donner, comfort all the way. But I can’t do orthopedic, squishy clogs or clunky hiking sandals. You would see a perfectly attractive individual (ok, and a lot of no attractive) only to be spooked by their choice in footwear. It was very clear that the plane to Newark was Portlanders visiting not returning New Yorkers because of the preponderance of earthy clodhoppers and white Seinfeld tennis shoes.
Passive aggression on menus. The ol’ “substitutions will be politely declined” chestnut. Upon further inspection, they are not dicks as I originally thought just super non-confrontational, as is my own nature. But you can tell me flat out there are no substitutions allowed and I’ll be fine with it. This has trickled down to the Oregon Coast, as well. I saw the caveat on two menus there. Also, all restaurants will have a hummus plate.
Split checks. No one does that here. You can’t just ask for a bill to be divvied up four ways and pay with four credit cards but that seemed to be standard in Portland, so much so that some restaurants had explicitly stated policies that they’d only accept one credit card per bill. I’m trying to figure out the logic in this. Here, I think it’s because it’s a waste of time on the restaurant’s end, plus that’s a lot of fiddly math to determine who owes what. I think it’s a nickel and diming cheapskate thing. I can’t put my finger on why, but there’s something yokel-ish about splitting a check a million ways even though in theory it’s not un-sensible.
One of my favorite parts of visiting smaller cities is cheap drinks. Even the likely pricey for Portland drinks at the scary L.A./Hong Kong brash Departure Lounge on top of our hotel were mostly around $9. $12 seemed to be the upper limit and here that’s just par for the course, not that I’m proud of it or bragging. Most shocking was that A. Space Room still exists, and B. that two cocktails cost $6. I was further shocked by a $2 gin and tonic in Eugene. No wonder I used to drink so much. I overheard two guys at Carl’s Jr. (yes, I ate at Carl’s Jr.) discussing where to get a drink. “I don’t want any $5 beers!” to which the other replied, “no, it’s not an expensive place.” A world where $5 beers are expensive is the same world where we were asked for the leftover fries on our tray and few sips of soda we were tossing into the trash by a young man I’m quite certain lives on the streets by choice.
Without getting into specifics, bad fucked up things will eventually happen to you in Portland, often involving alcoholism, freak accidents and/or freak illnesses. If you are lucky enough to avoid any of these afflictions, you are probably at least depressed and/or lethargic and unable to follow through on any plans, un-ambitious or massive, you might have. However, if you are talented and confident with follow through the bar is so low that you can actually do quite well for yourself all on merit. Merit doesn’t mean shit in NYC. I do appreciate the hard work over who you know approach. Self-deprecation also doesn’t fly here, no one’s laughing with you. In NYC you must cry on the inside if at all.
People are bigger, they just are. I’m not trying to make a value judgment. I never quite believe the supposed average American woman is a size 14 crap because I just don’t see it here. But yeah, waiting in the baggage area at the Portland airport I was struck by the lack of females under a size 10. Not even necessarily fat, just not much thinness to be seen. And they're tall. Must be a more Germanic stock than on the East Coast. The men on our plane were over 6 feet and had enormous khaki-clad asses. I never thought of myself as terribly large until I moved to NYC, I always felt kind of regular. I’m the smallest in my family. While In Portland last week I never gave a second thought to standing up straight and sucking in my stomach. Another week there and I might’ve been wearing stretchy pants with an elastic waistband.
Tattoos. Everyone has them, lots of them. Not so much here. I got one at 18, another at 21 and haven’t expanded since. Though I’m thinking about it.