Portland: The West Coast’s answer to Europe

It is unfortunate that Portland is sandwiched between Seattle and San Francisco. As hard as Portland might try, Portland will never be able to outshine ‘Frisco or The Emerald City. Alas, our city is the West Coast’s weird, red-headed stepchild. We just keep getting weirder and weirder.

Through this competition our city seems to have a latent ambition to become more European. Like Europeans, Portland has become the land of beers, bicycles, trains, and most recently, soccer. We are also like one decentralized Amsterdam-style red light district, with prostitutes and drugs running rampant.

While I have only been to San Francisco a handful of times, there were plenty of strange people. At Fisherman’s Wharf I saw a reasonably fit shirtless male holding a sign announcing he was cougar bait. I’ve never seen this in Portland, so I can only assume San Francisco is at least comparable to Portland in regard to its contrived attempts to gain national attention by being weird.

Booze? You don’t want to be too hungover when you are driving to work in Silicon Valley, or to Microsoft’s headquarters.

Seattle and San Francisco have better jobs and a lower unemployment rate than Portland. This is significant because Portland residents are generally less worried about being hungover because they are less likely to have a job to hold down. Another Portland coup.

Europe is globally renowned for its beer, and Askmen.com agrees. Five of the countries on its top-10 list of beer producing countries are European. The top three on the list are European countries, with the good ol’ US of A hot on their tail at four. The picture of PBR flats accompanying USA’s entry on the list is questionable, as I have only ever heard it described as piss-water. They must have asked a Portlander their opinion, because for some reason we love our piss-water. However, I think price coupled with the unemployment rate might have something to do with that.

Portland also has the highest concentration of microbreweries in the country. How do I know this? I know this because the guy on the PA outside of my apartment during the Grand Floral Parade quizzed the large crowd that had gathered along the parade route on this subject. While I would rather have slept, I received an interesting tidbit of information from him. Even if I did want to chuck a can of PBR out of my window at this guy for disturbing my peace.

Trains? This one is a wash. Much like Europe, you can get from Portland to most parts of the country, and nearby cities, by train. This is not unique to Portland, and the Bay Area’s BART is more than a match for TriMet in terms of service.

Bicycles? From what I gather, Seattle and San Francisco are too hilly to ride your bicycle all over town. Naturally, Portland wins decisively. However, we can’t compete with the Dutch because they have led the world in bicycle culture for over a century.

Speaking of the Dutch, Dutch decadents must be envious of our decentralized red light district. You can easily score hookers from northeast to southeast 82nd Avenue. This is a massive stretch of road that stretches from Northeast Killingsworth Street all the way to Clackamas Town Center, and that’s just lingerie viewing rooms, porn shops and other independent contractors with a “relationship consultant” lurking nearby. This does not even factor in the many strip clubs dotting Portland’s landscape.

Similar to Amsterdam, Portland loves its pot. You can go to most any part of the city and get your pot fix rather quickly. You don’t even need a pot card to score. Want to get high? Start asking random people hanging out in the Park Blocks, and eventually you will find a dealer.

Need something a little stronger? The loiterers littering the Park Blocks can probably hook you up. I wonder if this is where the people in the Vanguard’s crime blotter got their heroin from. If the loiterers in the Park Blocks do not have it, then surely you can find it in nearby Chinatown. While I’ve yet to be offered heroin by anyone in Chinatown, I was once, unbeknownst to me, offered crack. As my friend and I were walking to a concert at the Roseland, a man walked by and hummed that he had rocks in his socks. I inquired with my friend about this and discovered this was code for selling crack.

Another time, a friend and I were downtown and saw what my friend identified as probably being a bundle of heroin outside of the McDonalds nearest to Pioneer Square. The day was rainy, and he smeared the baggie and its contents into the rainy sidewalk with his shoe. While walking away from the bundle, we had fun guessing which distraught junkie look-alike hightailing it towards the McDonalds had lost their fix. It is a wonder they don’t spell it heroine, since it always saves their day.

This finally brings us to soccer. As a result of its MLS team, Portland has ‘Frisco licked. But with Seattle it is a wash. While Seattle has had Major League Soccer for longer than Portland, our town is anchored by the soccer savvy, and fairly recently, two-time division 1 champion University of Portland girls’ soccer team. While Portland can’t compete with Europeans in terms of the game being life or death, the Timbers’ Army gives the impression that they have a similar passion for the game.

With that said, Portland may as well just start calling it football, and tack American onto the front of our version of the game, as Portland will in all likelihood never have an NFL team.

This short breakdown tells me that Portland is competitive or better in these four categories thought of individually as European. Accordingly, our city should abandon its successful yet contrived attempts to be weird and embrace its increasingly prolific European-centric behavior. Timbers fans have no time to keep it weird because weird does not win championships. Beer drinkers just want to get tanked and party, and that seems pretty normal to me. Bicycle riding and trains are also normal on the surface. The red decentralized red light district feel is definitely weird, but those valuing total personal liberty (a West Coast value) will support this.

If Portland wants to outshine San Francisco and Seattle it needs to play to its strengths, abandon the national clown act and continue increasing its European attributes. This is Portland’s only chance at legitimate national credibility.