May 11th, 2009 5:33 pm | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Fearless NY Times Writer Dares to Visit Post-Apocalypse Portland

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In the wake of Oregon's economic collapse, it is easy to forget the real victims: New York Times travel freelancers. With the Oregon unemployment rate topping 12.1 percent, how will the stringers be able to justify their monthly comped trips to Portland? Who will punch their ticket to Hipster Adventureland now?

But comes a savior: It's Matt Gross, one of the Grey Lady's "Frugal Travelers," pioneering a new approach: Treat Portland as an anthropological case study, like a remarkable jungle tribe whose members do not understand the concept of money!
What this Frugal Traveler loved more than the free suds, however, was the utter normality. No one seemed surprised that drinks would be given away, let alone that they'd actually be worth drinking. And in that casual acceptance, I discerned a characteristic of Portland that would enchant me over the course of a week, as I explored restaurants and bars, artisanal cafes and mushrooming food carts, funky neighborhoods and weird little museums. Amid economic catastrophe — Oregon has the country's second-highest unemployment rate — there was a general indifference to wealth. In its place was a dedication to the things that really matter: hearty food and drink, cultural pursuits both high and low, days in the outdoors and evenings out with friends. It's the good life, and in Portland it still comes cheap.

They give away free beer! They live without regard for material possessions! They barter! They ride bicycles! They eat their food from carts! They have outdoor art shows! Oh, this conceit should be good for at least three more Times assignments this year!
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