The Dream of the ’90s, or, “A Trip to Portland, OR”

“You should move to Portland!”

So exclaims my best friend and Portland’s newest resident, Kelly, while we feast upon happy hour bites and strawberry pomegranate margaritas, at Portland City Grill. We are thirty stories up and enveloped in a dreamy panoramic pink sunset, decorating snow-capped Mount Hood, the city below, and miles beyond.

“No, no I don’t think so.” And then what I say next is nothing to feel proud of. I probably should say something like “I just didn’t feel that spark, you know… the spark when you realize a person and a place are completely compatible.” Or maybe I should say, “I just can’t see a future with PDX” But what I say is “I’m really attracted to cities with ambition. And I really can’t get over all of the people dressed in pajamas, lounging about.” Honest truth, or East Coast Contempt?I then immediately try to backtrack upon my hasty, unfair judgment of the City of Roses, acknowledging all the industry we had witnessed or learned about the night before, like KEENS and Nike and Vestas Wind Systems. Clearly there is ambition in Portland, but the face of Portland is the omnipresent hipster, sitting on a sidewalk, strumming on a guitar. GET UP AND DO SOMETHING I have the urge to yell. (OH GOD AM I A SUIT?)

“But, you love the ‘90s! Portland is the so-called dream of the ‘90s!” rebutts my well-meaning friend, referencing Portlandia, a television show I wanted to avoid prior to my visit for the same reason I think NOBODY should watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and think that’s how we all act. (Just some of us).

I do love the ‘90s. I love plaid, Starbucks, Kurt Cobain. I love economic surplus and instant messaging and Bill Clinton playing a saxophone. I love neon colors and old sitcoms and their laugh tracks. I love Zack Morris’ cell phone and boy bands and seeing Titanic in the movie theater five times. But I grew up, and, it seems, became firmly entrenched in some kind of urban Northeast mentality.

The old adage we are what we eat never really made sense to me. I’m a living breathing twenty-something woman, not a burrito. But my visit to Portland confirmed my long-standing suspicion that we are where we live.

Killing time between engagements the previous day, Kelly and I stopped in a boutique shop. “Hello!” the girl behind the counter immediately exclaimed. “How was your day? What did you do?” I immediately felt uncomfortable. Why does Zooey Deschanel’s little sister want to know what I did today, I’m thinking to myself. Thankfully I have the most wonderful friends who make up for my social inadequacies in every way. “We just grabbed some lunch at the food trucks,” Kelly said.

“Oh, what kind of food did you get?”

I had to fight an overwhelming urge to give our new friend a lecture on talking to strangers so openly. Doesn’t she know about bad guys? Does she think that by talking to us, we will become friends? What is the meaning of all of this friendliness?!

It didn’t stop there. People everywhere asked every question of us. “How long are you here for?” “What do you do?” “How are you liking Portland?” “How long are you here for?” And finally, “Enjoy this weather! You couldn’t have come at a better time!”

Conclusion: Hello, my name is Amanda and I am a Philadelphian and also a tough, suspicious bitch.

I really couldn’t have come to Portland at a better time. Maybe Portland isn’t the city for me, but I really need to leave Philadelphia.

ADDENDUM: Portland may or may not be the dream of the ’90s, but it definitely is the dream that and/or e-readers might not render exinct real life books after all. Behold: Powell’s (, a whole city block full of books, books, and more books. If you, too, are terrified at the prospect that your children may not know what a book is, go to Powell’s. It’s heaven on earth, and a real life respite from the barrelling train of Kindles doom that threatens to overtake us all.

I found this beautiful copy of Jane Eyre, an edition published in 1946, at Powell’s, which shelves used and new books together. Look at that illustration! How can we let these die?

8 responses to “The Dream of the ’90s, or, “A Trip to Portland, OR”

  1. I love reading your words, too hilarious. And I agree, stick to the East coast. We have NYC and CHARLESTON after all.

  2. Yay! I made it into your blog!! But let’s get some things straight. We drank pomegranate margaritas. And any of the people we saw sitting on the street playing a guitar were homeless, not hipsters. Sometimes I think homeless people are the face of Portland…

    • AH ! Kelly, I’m caught! This is why I dropped out of Journalism school. Can the court, for the record, note that it was pomegranate, not strawberry. I was bound to forget details after all the alcohol we consumed. Stay tuned, more semi-fact based Portland posts to come.

  3. I agree about books How can you read all the classics on a Kindle and enjoy them? Thankfully I read them when I was growing up. No Kindles for me. I like to hold a book in my hand when I am reading.

  4. Nancy Becker
    I like that you give us a bit of more than just a look at the tourist attractions in the places you have visited. may you have many more travel experiences.

  5. I agree, Beverly. No kindles for me either. There is nothing like the feel of a book in your hands. The smell of the paper. The ability to fill a shelf, with colorful covers, all shapes and sizes. May we never lose the beauty of a book whether brand new or well read, passed among loved ones.

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