Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What you do in Oregon

We left Texas to move to Portland exactly one month ago today, and three days later, we drove into PDX on the Columbia River Highway. Rounding a corner, Mt. Hood suddenly came into view, floating and spectacular. Come to think of it, it was like that when we drove into Oregon itself on the once and future Oregon Trail.  Almost as soon as we crossed the state line from Idaho, beautiful vistas opened up, like a painting or an alternate reality.  Suddenly. 

Come to think of it, life itself is like that out here.  Portland and Oregon have a way of jumping out at you from behind a corner. Sometimes they say "BOO!" but more often they just offer you a beer.  The dogs found that out at Cannon Beach this weekend.  They were standing in mud at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. For Clyde in particular that alone was quite an accomplishment; he has always despised walking on anything that was even damp.  But Clyde has also opened up to new experiences since the Long Ride that brought us here, and he happily stood in the seaside mud.

Clyde and Austin didn't know about ocean waves, though. Suddenly what must have felt to the beagles like the ENTIRE PACIFIC OCEAN was coming at them and drenching them. They looked at my wife, Montana, as if she had thrown the ocean on them.  But they shook it off and went with it, because that's what you do in Oregon.

Yesterday,  I got a gig teaching some introductory tech classes at the business school in the School of Business at University of Portland. There have been many places I expected my teaching career might take me.  Teaching in any capacity in a well-regarded business school was certainly not among them. But I'm shaking it off and going with it, because that's what you do in Oregon.  To celebrate the new opportunity, Montana and I rode the Max to Santeria, a Mexican restaurant. We were on the second day of a brutal Oregon heatwave and needed margaritas. As it turned out, the second day of the heat wave was also its final day.  I did say it was a brutal Oregon heatwave.

So, after a couple of margaritas, I needed to go to the restroom.  I went through the back door, walked past the nude model writhing around on the floor, and found my way to the men's room.  Oh, did I mention that the restrooms were in Mary's, the all-nude club next door to Santeria? No? Expect the unexpected, shake it off, go with it.  That's what you do in Oregon.

This evening we took Clyde and Austin for a walk, fully planning to just take them to the small park across from our building. But while we were down there, from the next park. . . Okay, I should explain something about Portland.  Here, you have a park.  Then, you have another park.  Then, a park. Then maybe some city. Or maybe another park.  So, from the next park, we hear a loudspeaker, and Clyde and Austin started pulling at their leashes trying to get over there.  We went with it.

What the dogs had sensed were horses in the park. Maybe they will play with me, screamed Austin's body language.  The horses, with the cops who were riding them, were quietly hanging around some sort of gathering.  We approached some people sitting on a bench, and asked, What's going on? Public party, they shrugged.

Well, public party! So clearly we were invited! We shook it off and went with it.  People started approaching the beagles and petting them.  Portlanders are kind of reserved unless they are at a street fair or street party.  Then they come out of their shell.  Fortunately, a street fair or party can be anything from an art walk to the farmer's market. Do not underestimate the significance of this fact: In Portland, you can do your grocery shopping at a street fair. Musicians are playing, jugglers are juggling, epicurean delights are being tasted, and you are walking along putting the ingredients for Tuesday's lunch into your canvas bag. We finally figured out that Portlanders only feel normal at parties, so they make everything into a party. 

Speaking of canvas, there were some canvassers for mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith there. He's one of the last two standing in the race, currently in a runoff with Charlie Hales.  I've been trying to piece together the local politics, so I kind of hung around, hoping one of them would approach me. Then, I glanced over and saw Smith (himself!), having fingers shook in his face by an elderly couple.  (Portlanders are engaged in their politics.)  So, I left Montana with Clyde and Austin, who were sniffing at a puggle (beagle and pug mix). Montana had started a conversation with the woman walking the puggle.

I listened to the elderly couple harangue Mr. Smith for awhile and then chatted a bit with him myself.  And the puggle?  Turned out to be Jefferson Smith's; the woman Montana was talking to was his wife.  And what do you do in Portland, Oregon, a city of six-hundred thousand people, when you take your dog out to pee and end up at a party talking to quite possibly the next mayor while your dogs sniff the candidate's dog's butt?

You shake it off and go with it. That's what you do in Oregon.


  1. You are so in your element. Welcome home. :)

  2. Thanks, Billy. Can't wait for you guys to make it up here.


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Upside Down on Mars by Barry J. Cochran is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.