The Fleet came and went. The lawn chairs popped up faster than teenage meth dealers on downtown sidewalks. The sweet smell of elephant ears still lingers in the air. It's time for the Nose to come out of the closet.

He harbors a love nearly as shameful among Portland's cultural elite as anything Michael Jackson ever imagined while watching the Little League World Series.

The Nose loves the Rose Festival.

This is a strange season, the annual period when those who style themselves Über-Portlanders-sure, they voted for Kerry, but only because Chomsky didn't run and Kucinich didn't make it-feel like aliens in their own hometown.

Weird parades snarl downtown-take that, transit planning.

Tom Potter's Toyota Prius makes way for the bright red Hummer parked next to the U.S. Marine Corps' recruiting station outside the Pepsi Waterfront Village. (This government-owned vehicle, the Nose noticed, is outfitted with four massive subwoofers. So no more crying about being under-equipped in Iraq, jarheads.)

Tight-panted hipsters scramble to avoid Clackamas County families who look like they've eaten the last six generations of their forebears.

Pearl District cleavage is temporarily replaced by Estacada ass-crack.

Last Friday afternoon, as the Nose wandered the sadly muted waterfront midway (only one person was riding the Sea Dragon) beneath gray skies, he reflected that this is a profoundly good thing.

Yes, the Rose Festival drives many Portlanders crazy-largely because its crowd includes many people who might be politely described, in the inimitable parlance of HBO's Deadwood, as slack-jawed hoople-heads. Yet this level of culture shock just has to be healthy for a city that spends the other 50 weeks of the year congratulating itself on how much distance it's put between itself and these United States.

One of Schnozzo's most knowledgeable friends put it like this: Rose Festival is the time of year that Portland reminds itself of its uniqueness by surrendering wholeheartedly to red-state Americana. The heart of the City That Works transforms into a county fair in one of Cincinnati's Kentucky suburbs. The latte-drinkers' poor, gauche, politically unreconstructed cousins briefly have the run of the place.

And the Nose will admit it: The whole spectacle, rather than annoying him, gives him a Barack Obama-style we-are-all-one-people chill. Along the dirt thoroughfare, cheek-by-jowl vendors sold Slushaberrie ("Chocolate Dipped Fruit on a Stick"), carne asada and yakisoba. The Döner Haus stood next to Vijay's Little India. One booth traded in deep-fried Oreos, another in henna tattoos that last two weeks.

That's a level of cultural diversity that Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard couldn't match on its best day, no matter how many "Keep Portland Weird" bumper stickers its denizens buy. The Nose was just becoming a little choked up-and then the clouds opened into a monsoon.

Some guy immediately offered to sell him an umbrella for the low price of $15. And at that perfect Rose Festival moment, the Nose thought: What a country.