Honestly, we didn't know what to expect when we launched WW's First Annual Super-Deluxe Readers Probe, an online poll designed to expose some dark, mossy grottos in Portland's collective subconscious. We knew we'd get a bumper crop of opinion. We did not count on more than 2,700 readers filling out the damn thing. But they/you did, blowing off steam about jobs, dating and the suburbs.
Some results just confirm conventional wisdom about the City of Roses. More transplants say they moved to Portland "because it's a cool place" (17 percent) rather than for a job (16 percent). Napoleon Dynamite's performance as runner-up (36 percent) to Erik Sten (41 percent) in a mock mayoral poll proves that fashionable irony ain't dead. And the city mascot? "Hipster" edged out "tweaker," 25 percent to 20 percent.
In many cases, though, results surprised us. Who could guess that more than 52 percent would claim they never smoke weed? And when we invited folks to write in answers, the Probe took some hilarious—and strange—turns.
Obviously, we can't lay out all of the stats here (check out some of the eye-catching results to the right, and also turn to page 25 for other fun facts). Even though you may be dying to know whether more Portlanders venerate the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Buddha (29 percent vs. 20 percent), reading that many numbers in one sitting turns most folks cross-eyed. But if you want all the numbers, a full rundown can be found at wweek.com.
We'll also introduce a few of the Portlanders whose write-ins were so profound that we just wanted you to meet them: A 23 year-old Lewis & Clark graduate, a Portland-native airline ticket agent, a thirtysomething Realtor, and a Bolivia-born Lincoln High School student. (Check the Web for a few more.)
Any overarching messages? It's a confusing picture at times. But the Probe does show that you're up to your ears in ideas about this city. For us, the most telling stat is this: Even though—or maybe because—60 percent of Probesters didn't grow up here, over 40 percent hope they never, ever leave.
After reading the results on this page, keep going to find out what a few of the Probesters were thinking.
NEW CITY MOTTOS
To judge by the Probe, the slogan emblazoned on Portland's city-owned vehicles and bandied about by its politicians—"THE CITY THAT WORKS"—um, doesn't work. Well over half the survey-takers either think the motto sucks or don't know what it means, and almost 450 took us up on our invite to suggest a new civic "branding strategy."
We didn't expect this to become a deluge of rants about Portland's crap job market. But for the most part, thanks to the peppy original, that's what we got:
The City That's Looking for Work
The City That Works Part-Time
The City That Works Two Jobs
The City That Sucks for Work
The City That Gives All the Jobs to Mexicans
The City That Begs
"Got Any Spare Change?"
Et cetera. But is this just the carping of a malcontent minority? After all, a whopping 70 percent say they're satisfied with their own employment situation. Then again, maybe those people are happily jobless.
HOW DOES ANYONE GET LAID IN THIS TOWN?
Man, oh man—the romantic outlook seems grim, to judge by the Probe. First, confronted by a range of hypothetical dating options, 45 percent would take the nerdy route of buying coffee for that cute special someone; an alarming 22 percent would drink silently in a corner, waiting for life to happen to them. When we asked what people thought would happen if they tried to get a date, here were some of the written responses:
"A fantastic first three months, followed by a vehement objection to commitment."
"In [other cities] I get asked out all time. Portland men act like prepubescent boys."
"Awkwardness leading to hopefulness ending in more awkwardness."
"A very uncomfortable rash."
"A mix of wanton perverts and psychotic losers."
"It sucks when you're a black male and not a Blazer. I am a lawyer. Women think I'm a thug...I have not gotten laid in a year."
Ouch. Want to know something really depressing? More people say they moved here to escape their families (7 percent) than say they came for love (6 percent).
LOVE AND HATE
What do people like the most about Portland? In the pleasantly bland choices we presented, "laid-back feel" led the way (22 percent) over equally anodyne poll options like "tolerant community" (12 percent) and "friendly people" (9 percent). (Almost no one chose "trendiness.") But hundreds of people chose to write in their own fave factors, which were all over the map:
Let's put it all together: size, vibe, nature, food, etc.
Concealed Handgun License (CHL).
The fly-ass ladies.
The most punk rockers and cocaine per square mile.
NO SALES TAX.
Sleater Fucking Kinney.
We take a lot of things for granted...I have friends that moved here from places like El Paso and L.A., and they have made me realize how great of a city this is.
The swing-dance scene.
It's NOT fluoridated.
When it comes to hate, the spleen really starts to flow. The collective Probe couldn't decide what annoyed it most: "People are self-absorbed and hipper-than-thou" nosed its way to the top with 17 percent; but "too many political extremists and vegans" (10 percent), "no jobs" (11 percent) and "too many whities!" (11 percent) also attracted ticked-off constituencies.
And the write-ins? Many are irked by traffic, rain, panhandlers and street kids, and hipsters. And, in one of the bluest cities on the political map, a flock of boohooing conservatives was no surprise.
"Most Portlanders are out of touch with reality, especially when it comes to politics."
"Tom Potter and removing Portland from terrorist assistance [to] the feds."
"Liberal newspapers such as this one."
But Portland's lefties had their say, too:
"Not progressive as it boasts in policies!"
"Too much fundamentalism."
"Lars Larson." (Lars, be honest—did you nominate yourself?)
We're trying to get hip with this "reader-generated" (i.e., free) content thing here at WW, but we couldn't quite bring ourselves to totally scrooge the Probesters. Ten lucky winners, including our interviewees, will receive prizes ranging from dinner for two and a night at the Avalon Hotel to gift certificates at Wax On Spa to goody-rich grab-bags. Winners' identities were withheld to protect the hairless.
Interview: Lizzy Acker
Lizzy Acker, 23, grew up in Corvallis and graduated from Lewis & Clark College in May with a degree in English. She lives with her brother in Goose Hollow. After working all day at a locally owned frame shop, she had a sake and then met up with WW for a giggly chat.
WW: You say your favorite thing about Portland is "the availability of casual sex."
Lizzy Acker: It's pretty easy to find someone to have sex with if you really want to, and then you don't have to really be friends with them.
Is that's what going on in your age bracket?
Yeah, I know some people who have girlfriends and boyfriends, but those people are worthless. They're not interesting. They're not fun. Most of the people I'm really good friends with don't think monogamy is the way to go at the moment.
You pick Pabst and jo-jos as best describing your lifestyle. Financial statement or fashion statement?
Definitely a financial statement. I make $8 an hour even though I work full-time. It's disgusting.
Is that you on your shirt?
Yeah. I made a bunch of them. Pretty much all of my clothes have my face on them. Once I started doing it, I couldn't stop.
OK. The motto you suggested: "The city where the black people live on the other side of town."
It's totally true. It's hilarious. I ride the bus all the time, and sometimes you ride the bus and there are no black people on the bus. If you're going over to North Portland, you'll be the only white person on the bus. When I see a black person riding the bus to Raleigh Hills, I just assume they're a Hurricane Katrina survivor, because there's no way that a normal black person from Portland would be hanging out [there].
Your solution for street kids was "bus tickets to Seattle."
It's already a crap place. Just send them all there.
Are you going to stay in Portland?
I'm applying to grad school right now, but I'm gonna come back here probably. I love Portland.
Interview: Steven Frazee
We wanted to talk to Steven Frazee, a 42-year-old airline ticket agent, because he slammed Portlanders for being "frumpsville," a breed sadly devoid of worldly savvy.
WW: You have some strong feelings about people here. How did you come by them?
Steven Frazee: I grew up in Portland and went to the Seventh-day Adventist schools. I realized early on that I was infatuated with airplanes. I went to the International Air Academy in Vancouver. And my first airline job took me away from Portland for 20 years, but it was always home.
So, obviously, Portland eventually lured you back.
Working in the airline industry gave me a great opportunity to live in cities up and down the West Coast and in Europe, and I realized that I couldn't stay away. Portland is such a great city.
But wait. We thought you said...
There's a side to Portland that's just not that up-to-date compared to other cities. I ride the MAX to the airport every day, which I love, but there are a lot of trashy people on the train. I've been asked for money, drugs and sex, and for a working-class person just going to their job, that's not so great.
Yes, in your survey response you said you thought "trashy people with no culture" were the most annoying thing about Portland. What do you mean by that?
As a ticket agent, you get the pulse of a local community. And in Portland, you'll have someone ride the train to the airport on their day off, in their sweat pants, to stand in line and ask if they need anything more than their driver's license to go to Mexico. I'm like, get a passport! And realize that sweat pants and tennis shoes do not constitute fashion.
By the same token, I wish the gay scene would elevate a little bit. The bars here are just so trashy, with a couple exceptions. Even in Boise, the gay bar is right downtown in a skyscraper, and you ride up in glass-walled elevators. It's not like here, where you have to hitch your pants up when you go to the loo so you don't drag your cuffs in standing puddles of urine.
On the other hand, you obviously love it here. What's your favorite aspect of the city?
This city is beautiful and clean, and we can thank our civic leaders for that. It's laid-back, and I guess that's where some of the lack of quickness—that lack of global awareness—comes from. I love all the classic Portland attractions: the rhododendron gardens, the Esplanade, the fountains. We could be called the City of Fountains. I love hanging out at the Goose Hollow Inn—you hang out long enough, and you're probably going to run into [former mayor] Bud Clark, and he's always really easy and fun to talk to. Where else can you do that?
Interview: Paige Miller
Paige Miller is a Portland native, save a few years living in The Dalles as a kid. At 35, she works as a real-estate agent in her family's business. Currently residing near Southeast 12th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard, she just bought a house in NoPo. When WW caught up with her, she was at Tiny's sipping coffee out of her own mug and had a sense of humor despite her Christmas party hangover.
WW: You say, "Portland doesn't date."
Paige Miller: It doesn't. I have met people who have not been here very long, and they say they've heard about it outside of Portland, that Portland is just a bad place to be single. People just don't date much. Portland's tough. Most of the people I know who are single, like myself, I'm just learning to be comfortable with it.
You say that gentrification sucks and that Portland's most pressing issue is Californians? You're a Realtor!
I can get in so much trouble for saying this. A major portion of my business is people moving here from California—I'd say 75 percent. So it's good for me. I can't complain about it too much, but in all honesty I think there are so many Californians moving here because it's affordable and it's a beautiful clean city, but that's gonna change so fast. It's gonna become a California. There is a paper in the Bay Area that actually has a column on what's going on in Portland, the newest restaurants. Like I said, it's a double-edged sword. I make money off it, but at the same time it annoys the snot out of me.
What about gentrification? Why does it suck?
It sucks because to me it changes the faces of the neighborhoods a lot. Portland isn't so big that we have areas where lower-income people can continue to be pushed to. We don't really have anything left for them. Gresham—pretty far out there, kinda gross. I mean, I make money off of gentrification because the homes appreciate in value. It helps all of Portland. Portlanders should love it. They should thank the Californians for coming. It raises our home values. It does a lot of things for us.
Whoa! Is this you covering your ass?
I'm covering my ass, but at the same time it sucks because everything is different.
I'm curious about all these young, hip, artisty people moving here, and of course, I live right in the middle of all of them, and they're so incredibly hip with the permanently dirty hair. I've actually wanted to get a flatbed truck and put, like, hair-washing stations on it and drive around town and wash their hair. But where do they work? Where are they getting jobs?
I think they work at the coffee shops in Northeast.
There are so many of those, and I don't see those anywhere else. I'm in Seattle a lot. I'm like, where are the greasy hipsters? The manorexics?
Interview: Fernan Rojas
We admit it: We were expecting (and hoping) to talk about girls when we met up with Fernan Rojas. The 16-year-old Lincoln High School student cited "the fly-ass ladies" as his favorite thing about Portland. Surprise, surprise—the Bolivian native wanted to talk politics, instead.
WW: How long have you lived in Portland?
Fernan Rojas: I've lived in Portland for three years now. I'm originally from Bolivia, but my parents moved to Eugene when they were students. My mom got her doctorate in Spanish literature and got a job at the University of Portland, so we moved up here.
Do you go back to Bolivia very much?
I do. I have a lot of family in La Paz, and in Bolivia, family is a lot more close. Here, you see family once or twice a year, at Thanksgiving or something. Down there, if you don't see your family every weekend, it's like, what's wrong?
How does La Paz compare to Portland?
La Paz has a lot of the same atmosphere as Portland. It's a progressive city. It's politically charged, all the time. I think that relates a lot to Portland, because I've seen and been involved with a lot of protests here—against the war, against the administration, and things like that.
So you like Portland's reputation for political activism.
Exactly. I feel like there's not enough of it. I grew up with it all around me, even when I was in first grade.
Is there much talk about politics at Lincoln?
Only in class, for the most part. I like the teachers at Lincoln—they're really good at challenging people. Especially because it's, y'know, a pretty wealthy school. I feel like a lot of people come from conservative backgrounds, and the teachers do a good job pushing people's buttons and getting them involved in discussions.
Do you feel that, as someone who's not your average white Portlander, the city offers opportunities for you?
I really like it here. I'm kinda weird, because even though I go to Lincoln, I have friends from all over the city. I live in St. Johns. I know a lot of people who go to Grant, people who go to Central Catholic, all over the place. So I get a broad view. If I lived in the West Hills or Bridlemile, where most Lincoln kids live, I would probably feel trapped. You go up there, people know each other. Neighbors know each other. Neighbors talk about each other. You know what I mean? But since I feel the whole city, I really love it. A lot of people at school are like, "Oh, St. Johns—ghetto." But I live there, so I know that's not true.
The Funnest Facts!
WHO YOU ARE
• Nearly 53 percent (of the 2521 folks who answered this question) of Probesters are men.
• 187 respondents said they were gay and 172 said they were lesbians, which combined, means that 13 percent of respondents are same-sexers. A majority in both "camps" is generally satisfied with life here.
• 44 percent believe they embody the average Portlander. About 30 percent say they're more liberal; about 20 percent, more conservative. An alarming 5 percent have no idea.
• Over half claim to be part of the creative class, but 12 percent don't know what that means.
• Call the Paradox Police: Even though 52 percent claim they don't smoke weed, a hefty 47 percent say they know someone who sells drugs (while another 8.7 percent just wish they did). Weird!
• Probesters think politics is Portland's leading coffeehouse conversation topic, trumping dating (just 7 percent), the weather and even real estate.
• Over 60 percent want to give safe housing, treatment and education to street kids, but 12 percent would send them to forced labor camps.
• A majority thinks Critical Mass, the traffic-snarling pro-bike protest, is OK, at least in theory.
• Almost 60 percent think more central-city density is the key to dealing with population growth. Congratulations, Metro!
• Hold your fire, California bashers. At least according to the Probe, the whole Golden State invasion thing is sort of a myth.
• The biggest source of transplants? Oregon itself (20 percent).
• The next biggest? The West, excluding Oregon and California (19 percent).
• The East Coast and Midwest both claimed bigger percentages (around 16) than Cali's 15 percent. So why don't we hate people from Delaware?
CONSUMERISM, FASHION-WHORING, ETC.
• Give lifestyle-category choices from champagne 'n' caviar to bread 'n' water, most slotted themselves into the comfy microbrew demographic (52 percent) or plush pinot noir nation (20 percent). Lucky devils.
• A small (but probably vocal) minority may be overdoing it: 11 percent say their typical weekend consists of getting drunk and sleeping all day.
• So predictable: About 80 percent chose either a Prius or a Subaru Outback over flashier rides like the Hummer and Miata as their ideal drive.
• In a four-beverage race, red wine stomped to victory with 49 percent. White wine, Red Bull, White Russian—none could break 14 percent.
• Never fear, coffee roasters: 30 percent quaff the black brew once a day, while 18 percent indulge twice and a frighteningly strong fringe group (16 percent) drinks even more.
• Does a tattoo-positive rate of 26 percent seem low to you? Or is it high?
• About 40 percent claim they don't care about their hair. What total bullshit.
• Call it unreciprocated love: While a majority of suburbanites would consider moving to the central city, 50.4 percent of city dwellers would suburbanize only under penalty of death.
• Surprise! While only 1.7 percent of Probesters say they live in the Pearl District, over 70 percent would at least consider moving there.
• About 70 percent say gentrification "has its perks and downsides"; only 5 percent claim the phenomenon "rocks."
• Is the eastside-westside divide a myth? Nearly three-quarters of Probesters say they have close friends on the opposite side of the Willamette.
• Strip clubs? A landslide 59 percent say, "Hell, yes!"
• Fears that the Northwest is losing its rugged soul may be overblown.
• More Probesters have been hunting (25 percent) than windsurfing (15 percent).
• Almost everyone knows who Tom McCall was.
• Nearly half have visited the distant Central Oregon burg of Prineville.
• Given a choice of leisure pursuits, a vast majority chose rafting over more urbane activities.
• Spectator sports? Who needs 'em? Solid majorities say they don't care about any current local team, much less the Seattle pro clubs, high-school sports or possible new major sports attractions.
Interview: Kim Kadas
Portland native Kim Kadas grew up at Southeast 33rd and Hawthorne. Now a resident of industrial Southeast, the 26-year-old is halfway through a B.A. in cultural and historical studies from Marylhurst University. We joined her to sip a PBR at Dots.
WW: You say your favorite thing about Portland is "the old-school working-class intellectuals." What's that mean?
Kim Kadas: My parents' friends and neighbors were artists and intellectuals, but none of them were college graduates, so they were working at printing presses or the bank. It was exciting growing up with people who were interested in knowledge but who didn't have an academic background. That seems a little more rare, because it seems like most people my age already have degrees.
And some of them live in the Pearl District. You'd never consider living there?
No. The Pearl District is bizarre to me. I have no idea where it came from. What is this ugly pseudo-totem-pole artwork? The art is ugly there. The sidewalks and businesses are kind of ugly, and the housing is weird. It's probably in some ways a status thing.
You say Critical Mass is awesome. But it drives a lot of people nuts.
Yeah, I have no problem if it requires people to slow down and miss their power lunches or whatever it is they're disrupting. We take ourselves too seriously.
Will you stay in Portland?
I don't call any other place home, but my options are to be a renter for the rest of my life or live farther out from the center of the city. Any income in the future that I might make will never buy a house in my neighborhood. There should be some sort of avenue for people who aren't making $60,000 to $100,000 to survive. I see people getting pushed out of neighborhoods, and I think the reason people move here is going to be lost when people can't afford to live here. Portland is going to change, because the people that make it interesting and political and dynamic are leaving.
Interview: Mark Teeter
Mark Teeter, a scooter-riding, Portland-raised 34-year-old financial analyst for Columbia Sportswear, caught our eye with his keen appreciation for Portland's motley collection of social groups.
WW: As someone born and raised in Portland, you must have seen huge changes.
Mark Teeter: Oh, yeah. The incredible growth. The changing neighborhoods—places that were once almost ghetto are trendy. Plus, there's the Pearl District and all those sorts of thing. The urban growth boundary forces everything to centralize, so you get density in places that were once pretty empty.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Man, I'm so mixed on that. I try to be balanced, because I like the idea of not sprawling out all over the place. But I don't know if we've got the infrastructure to handle it—the extra people, the extra sewage, all that. As much as getting people out of cars is a good thing, sometimes we forget that we're still auto-centric. The MAX is fabulous, but it's also a magnet for crime. You can look at the PortlandMaps website crime stats and just see it.
You've worked for Columbia for 11 years. What would you say the growth of the sportswear industry has done for the city?
It's incredible, because it allows people to be upwardly mobile. It goes beyond Columbia or Nike—you have Yakima Watersports, Danner, LaCrosse, Doc Martens. I know so many people from the first few years I worked at Columbia who are all over the place now. It's been a great boon for the economy.
As a native, what do you see as the downsides to Portland?
Well, I went through the process of building a house here, and it took me longer to get the permits than it took to build the house. Then you've got the influx from California. God bless 'em, my wife's one of 'em, and that's how I was able to buy my first house. That's something else that's changed—at the time it was cheaper to buy a house on the east side than it was to rent.
In your survey, you mentioned that you liked Portland's mix, which you summed up as "hippies, tree huggers, Bible thumpers, neo-Nazis, cowboys, meth heads, hookers, philosophers and ideologues." Can you elaborate?
One thing about Portland I think is really cool is that you have opinions that are way out there, not just on left and right but from just about everywhere. It's almost like going on vacation: I might be driving out to Beaverton, but I can decide to cruise through Hawthorne, stop in a coffee shop and start up a conversation. It's totally out of my world but it's great.
It's even in my friend base. I seem to be the balancing point between these groups. And I find that I'm happier that way. When I first went to college in Eugene, I kinda went full-on into the hippie thing, and everyone was just like me. It drove me crazy. I had to get back to a balanced and just, y'know, fierce type of environment. I deal a lot in the Midwest, and it's a whole different world. You're in America, right, and if you don't fit in, see the door.
Interview: Tim Morsman
Tim Morsman, 30, was one of the 19 percent or so who rated themselves "more conservative" than the average Portlander—yet he said he liked Critical Mass, the disruptive bike-rights protest. What was up with that?
WW: You seem like a political paradox. Tell us more.
Tim Morsman: I think liberal and conservative are screwed-up terms these days. They've both become bad words to some people—like shibboleths, I guess. I don't know how I'd describe myself—a liberal redneck, I guess.
Are you from around here?
No, I came here for school about 10 years ago and decided I liked it and that I'd stay. I went to Lewis & Clark, so I'm one of those overeducated, underemployed hipster jag-offs—except I don't really work like a hipster jag-off.
You said you consider yourself part of the creative class. What do you do?
I do private investing, for myself. I'm my own boss. I'm also on the board of a farm that sells soy and grain on the commercial market.
Seems like a lot of Portlanders are self-employed. Why, do you think?
The employment situation can be so bad here that you're almost forced to defend yourself. I make enough to keep the rain off my head and the wolf from the door, but I need to do more. It gets to the point where I want to kill my boss, and that wouldn't be good.
What made you want to stay here, 10 years ago?
I love the Northwest—I like the grain and the rain. Maybe it's some kind of depressive part of my personality. The people here are a lot like the people I grew up with in Minnesota—they're polite, they let you do what you want, but if you mess with their shit, that's your ass.
Yet you say the hipsters and political extremists get under your skin.
Yeah, the whole hipper-than-thou attitude drives me crazy—all these dumb motherfuckers drinking Pabst because it's cheap. I hate Pabst. Fuck that Wisconsin bullshit.
What's your drink of choice, then?
Oh, I'll drink it all, from the penthouse to the trough. Just not Pabst.
You were part of the minority who've heard gunshots from their house in the last year. Where do you live?
Northeast. I've lived in all five Portland precincts, and I like Northeast the best. There's just more variety. I can speak Spanish at the taqueria, I've got black neighbors...in Southeast, it was just white yuppies and tweakers. That got old.
Interview: Nancy Gonzalez
L.A. native Nancy Gonzales, a 53-year-old self-employed house cleaner, moved to Oregon 22 years ago. She bought her North Portland home in '94 ("the year Kurt Cobain died," she says).
WW: I was intrigued by your reply to our religion question: "God is a big busty black woman who laughs at me most of the time."
Nancy Gonzales: I grew up Catholic. Everything you do is wrong from the time you're a baby. I just think that's a funnier, easier, more loving face to put on that energy, that entity. She's just up there laughing her ass off at us. It helps me to remember not to take myself and everybody else so seriously.
You say people in Portland are "trying too hard to be all things to all people with money in their wallets." What do you mean?
It's still a very provincial place, and we're trying to be cosmopolitan, and on some days it looks really good. I'm just afraid, because I grew up in L.A., that this is gonna turn into Seattle. That scares me badly. I've been here now about 22 years. I lived in Ashland for seven years, and they fucked that up. All the Californicators.
Most annoying thing: "People from Gresham, Vancouver and Beaverton"?
Every time I go somewhere to get a service like gasoline, like directions at the 7-Eleven—well, now it's changed slightly because everyone's from Ethiopia—but in the past, you're in Gresham and you're asking where 299,000th street is, and they say, "I don't know, I'm from Vancouver." Like that's supposed to excuse everything. I especially hate Vancouver. They're terrible drivers. No one knows where anything is, and the city just sort of stops, and you're in a hay field. What's up with that?
I don't know where else I'd go. It's true, there's not a place that has what we have here. How are we going to roll with things that must change and be smart enough and sincere enough in our hearts to realize we can still have a wonderful place? Changes are gonna occur. You know, I was so glad when the Mexicans started moving here, because I knew the food was gonna get better.
Click www.wweek.com/documents/surveyResults2005.htm to see the results of Willamette Week's Super-Deluxe Interactive Readers Probe! NOTE: The results show collected stats only for multiple-choice answers--you'll have to use your imagination for the write-ins.