WW Presents Week Two of our Australian music intern's diary of moving to Portland.
Dear Portland: I have visited one of your mountains.
You may now exhale.
I know you've all been waiting for this moment.
When driving over one of the bridges into town from the airport on the day I arrived here, the local friend who picked my partner and me up suddenly exclaimed, “Oh quick, turn around!”
We turned around, expecting, I dunno, fireworks. A rainbow. A jumper. “You can see Mount Hood!”
Yes. Yes we could. There it was: in the exact same place, looking exactly the same as it did last time I was in Portland.
And since then, almost every new person I've met has said the same thing: “Oh you just moved here? Have you been to Mount Hood/Tabor/Larch/Talbert yet?” before pulling out a map to detail the BEST trail that I absolutely MUST hike or trek or traverse or some other word that is just a fancy name for walking.
And it's not just the guys dressed head-to-toe in Columbia gear who wear their carabiners to bed, or the ones who look like Paul Bunyan and can catch fish with their bare teeth.
I get it from hipsters with legs so scrawny (and packed inside skinny jean-shorts so tight) they look like they could barely climb up the stairs at Holocene. I get it from the effeminate guys in my building who wear chinos and sweater vests and have pet Chihuahuas. Chubby, tattoo-plastered rockers. Preppy blonde girls in OSU Beavers (how long before this name stops making me giggle like a Japanese schoolgirl, by the way?) hoodies. The so-trendy-it-hurts baristas in the Pearl. IT geeks in utilikilts. I even overheard two junkies on my bus the other day: “Yeah, my ex wants me to move to Texas. So I can see my kids. ‘Cause I'm not wanted any more. But there ain't no mountains in Texas!”
Apparently everyone here knocks off work for the weekend, exchanges their Campers for a pair of hiking boots and heads for the hills. In my mind, you're all riding around in wagons and fording rivers and hunting bison (though that may be based solely on playing too much Oregon Trail as a kid).
And you all want me to join you.
Is there something magical up in them thar hills? Or is it like when your friends get married or have kids and insist you absolutely must do it too, so you can be as miserable as they are?
I admit: I was curious. So on Saturday, I jumped on the 15 bus and walked (almost) all the way up Mount Tabor
. OK, it isn't exactly Mt Hood, but I breathed fresh mountain air, and saw trees, and got dirt on my shoes and dew on my ass. There were hipsters and rockers and geeks and kids, and chinos, utilikilts and skin-tight denim shorts. At one point—and this is 100% true—a guy who looked like Willie Nelson (long white hair, leather vest, cowboy boots and eyes that said, “I grow mushrooms, and I'm not talking about shiitakes”) strolled past strumming a guitar.
‘Tis a fine mountain, Portland.
But then I got cold and hungry and uncaffeinated and started having internet withdrawals, and quickly returned back to the bright lights and brew pubs of downtown.
It was a lovely afternoon, but I felt validated in my cynicism: I had embraced nature and the great outdoors, but the chemistry just wasn't there. I'd rather be “Just Good Friends.”
BUT. Last night, my beau and I returned home to our apartment just as the sun was setting (so like 11 pm or something ridiculous). From our window, I could see over the city's rooftops to a crisp blue horizon, where Mount Saint Helens loomed strikingly in full view, illuminated by the twilight.
“Quick, look at this…”
Check back in next week for another installment of
Diary of an Immigrant. Follow more of Ruth Brown's adventures in Portland at her blog Stump'd.