Green Is The New Black
It's been said that in Portland you need a degree in sustainability to know how to dispose of a bendy straw. That being said, if you get it wrong there's a good chance that one of the friendly natives of this quirky Pacific Northwest town will help you set it right. In an age where environmental issues have become fodder for political divisiveness it's nice to know there's a city here in the U.S. where being kind to the land is status quo. Ignore this at your own peril. You haven't really experienced embarrassment until you've tried to buy organic fruit at the local farmer's market without your reusable tote bag. "I'm from out of town" doesn't really work. Believe me I tried, but the Patchouli scented vegetable grower didn't take so kindly to my infraction.
There definitely is a vibe in Portland that's different from other cities; you see it and feel it everywhere you go. Like the "buzz" that is patently Manhattan, or the quietly dignified nuance that is unique to Greenwich, there is a particular feeling in Portland and it's just a little weird. The good news is, they like it that way. Emphasis on food that is locally grown and raised, sustainable farming, sustainable architecture, free trade coffee; it's all considered de rigueur.
When I was invited up to the funky little town of Portland I was both curious and excited. Up until that point all I really knew of it was from a t.v. show produced by Lorne Michaels called, "Portlandia" which sort of mocks and celebrates it at the same time. I was able to visit some friends, one of whom has an amazing horse farm just outside of town, and another who is in the same line of business that I'm in, with an office in the city. With that being said I was really able to experience both aspects of this groovy town.
When it comes to describing an architectural design style in Portland, what comes to mind is hip. You really never know what lies behind the walls you see from the street. There is a complete lack of pretense that makes it so beautifully surprising when you enter into a home or office. Whether it's a fashionable artisan's loft in the Hawthorn District, or a chic office in the trendy Pearl District, the exposed brick, old creaky wood floors and sleek design is really patently Portland.
The Pearl neighborhood, Portland's answer to SoHo, has evolved rapidly from an industrial zone to a vibrant neighborhood of galleries, parks and condos. It has a youthful, urban energy and is speckled with hip restaurants, cool coffee shops and funky nightclubs. I was able to walk the fifteen blocks, (albeit in the drizzly Oregon rain) from my hotel, to my friend's new business space there and I enjoyed every step. Being from California, walking instead of driving always seems like a novel idea, and I was really into taking it all in. As much as I dislike generalizations, it appeared as though there was a dress code that I was not privy to. I noticed it the first morning in the lobby of my hotel, and almost all of the people I passed on the street adhered to it; sort of an academic nerdiness. Most everyone I encountered wore tortoise shell glasses (can that many people have bad eyesight?) and many of them were actually reading as they were walking. It seems to be a trend that can be attributed to the fact that looking smart in this bookish town is considered cool.
As for me, reading has always been my passion and as luck would have it, I also have bad eyesight. Minus the neon tights and Teddy Bear backpack that many of the fine citizens of Portland consider standard garb, I sort of fit in as I perused Powell's Bookstore. If books are your thing Powell's is your place. Being the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world, it is nothing short of extraordinary. An absolute feast for the brain.
So I accomplished all that I set out to during my four day sojourn in Portland, and I'm looking forward to going back for a visit every now and again. Interesting people, farm to table cuisine, hip architecture and looking like a dork is synonymous with looking hot. I am all in.