Real Portland Includes Weird Pockets

Mariel Rossi-deVries, Editer

Why Keep Portland Weird?

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s highly amusing television series “Portlandia” gives the impression that Portland is part of another world. The main actors, with their wide ranging characters and tangential humor, provide an unpredictable television viewing adventure. Heading across the Hawthorne Bridge into the city, I was eager to find out what the real city would reveal.

The city is 145 square miles, about triple the size of San Francisco, which means that traversing it in a day is impossible. It is also impossible to define the city with a narrow label like “weird”. That would be like saying all people who drink Starbucks are privileged teenage girls: it’s not always true.

Portland does have the world’s smallest park and a chocolate waterfall. The Golden City also is home to the Banned Toy Museum, and Reykjavik holds the Icelandic Phallological Museum.

With all of that, Portland is not entirely weird. It just contains pockets of weirdness like many other cities in the world.

What may make the city a bit of an anomaly is that Portlandians enjoy the novel or illogical, whether that be a law prohibiting whistling underwater or prayer candles with pictures of Kanye on them. Inhabitants are comfortable with the city’s reputation and are open to the outlandish events it inspires.

The sheer diversity of the populous makes it difficult to generalize. The people who I observed could have easily passed for Berkeley or Oakland natives. Portland is simply a thriving and progressive metropolis.

The shop owners’ habits were unique however. Walking along Hawthorne at 11:00 am, I had intended to peruse the knick-knack stores and boutiques. However, I grew confused as I noticed shop after shop with no lights on and stymieing “Closed” signs. After checking the date and time several times, I asked a native. “Is it normal for shops to be closed at this time on a Friday?” I asked a cashier as I set down my Kanye celebrity candle and artsy socks.

“No, no,” she answered with a dismissive shake of her head. “People here just, they live in their own alternate reality.”

Obeying the recommendations of previous visitors, I stopped at Voodoo Doughnuts on 3rd Street. Little did I realize that at 5:14 that same morning, a man was stabbed just outside the store, according to Kion 6 news. The stabbing was ironic considering the doughnut shop’s signature pastry was a doll shaped doughnut with a “needle” through it’s midsection. I bought my Diablos Rex Doughnut and later learned that the shop had remained open and serving customers throughout the police investigation. Even as the tape was going up around the crime scene, Portlandians were dropping in for their morning fix, unfazed.

Portland has a unique culture and fascinating events seem to occur spontaneously. However, it is not excessively strange compared to the rest of the world. “Keep Portland Weird” is much more about celebrating the city’s many cultures, its quirky personalities and novel businesses, which is commendable rather than bizarre.