I took an interesting online quiz the other day. Well, technically it wasn’t a quiz, but it was still interesting. 31 Signs You’re a Portland Native. Now, I’m not actually a Portland native. I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1994, when I was 25 years old. And though I’ve lived here for nearly twenty years, only fifteen months were actually spent in Oregon. My home is located across the river, in Vancouver, Washington. But it feels like I am more a Portland native than probably half of the people who actually were born and raised there. The city – with apologies to Rod Stewart – is in my heart and in my soul. I feel a kinship with it, and believe it helps define my identity. Plus, I “scored” 18 out of 31 anyway. I know how to pronounce Couch Street. I do not own an umbrella. I don’t understand why every bookstore isn’t like Powell’s. And yes, I “love love love” my city. If there’s such a thing as being a “native at heart,” then I’ve got everybody else beat.
Tara and I have frequent discussions about moving to Portland. Every time we pass through really cool neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and rose bushes spilling over onto the sidewalks and architecturally stunning Victorian-like homes with magnificent front porches and brick chimneys, within walking distance of fantastic restaurants and hip shops, I get misty-eyed and nostalgic for a life I’ve never lived. Neighborhoods like Laurelhurst and the Hawthorne District and Mississippi Avenue and Ladd’s Addition and East Burnside. I have this passion and desire for a Portland address – not just to have a Portland address, but because those neighborhoods represent an ideal in my mind. They are not the cookie-cutter suburban fixtures of Vancouver. They are charming and eclectic, and would feel like home in a way a modern subdivision never could. I mean, you walk to the curb in front of one of these houses, and look what you find:
Those are hitching rings, solid posts embedded in concrete and installed shortly after the turn of the century. People tied their horses to those rings, and in true Portland style, people still tie horses to them – only they’re usually tiny and stuffed. These things are scattered all over the city, and offer a great glimpse into the past. How cool is that?
Tara, unfortunately, does not share my enthusiasm. She loves visiting Portland and taking advantage of the culture, but at night she’s happy to lay her head on a pillow in Vancouver, WA. She thinks the homes are too expensive and the neighborhoods too uncertain, in terms of their future. Says they’re nice now, and trendy, but in a decade or two could devolve into something seedier. I suppose that’s true, but most of these neighborhoods are a hundred years old at least, and the surrounding environs have only improved over the years. I did get her to agree that, if money were no object, she would consider buying a home in one of those neighborhoods. That’s progress, and when she said that, I held up my hand and begged her not to say another word. It gives me something to cling to, anyway. As Lloyd says to his wannabe girlfriend in Dumb And Dumber, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance…”
Which is not to say I don’t like Vancouver or am not happy here. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a great little community, with lots of history of its own (oldest settlement west of the Mississippi, original home of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, etc.). It’s got a great small-town vibe with plenty of amenities, and is just a short drive from Portland. We have easy access to all of the culture the Rose City has to offer, without the income tax. And we are allowed to pump our own gas. In many ways, Vancouver is the perfect place to live, and if Tara and I end up buying a house here and settling down, I’ll be nothing but happy. The important thing is just being together.
Although, if we could be together over there…