Why Portland is the Greatest City in the World, No I’m Serious, Stop Arguing You’ve Already Lost.

So next week marks a full three months since I moved to Portland.

I know, I know, that’s not completely true. Technically I moved to the Portland area a little over a year ago, but aside from my god-awful daily commute, I didn’t do a whole lot of exploring in the City Proper. Which is nothing short of a travesty.

But since then, I’ve upheaved my whole life and plopped my lost little self down in the throbbing heart of the city… and believe you me – I’ve made up for lost time.

I considered trying to tally the number of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, food carts, and shows I’ve been to since beginning this exploration… but just the thought of that task overwhelms me.

Instead, I’m just going to sit down for a moment and explain to you how absolutely, unequivocally, head-over-heels in love I am with this incredible town.

Elizabeth Gilbert taught me that when keeping chickens, there are some circumstances where you have to introduce a new hen to the flock. And you can’t just toss it in with the old chickens, or they’ll see it as an invader – instead, you slip the new bird into the coop in the middle of the night while the others are asleep.

In the morning, when the chickens wake up, they don’t notice the newcomer – thinking, “She must have been here all the time, since I didn’t see her arrive.” The thing is, awakening in the flock, the newcomer herself doesn’t even remember that she’s a newcomer – thinking only, “I must have been here the whole time…”

This is exactly how I arrived in Portland.

Without further ado, here’s why Portland is the absolute best city on Earth, no arguments, I’m not even listening to you anymore:

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Friends. Before moving here, I was so nervous about starting a brand new life by myself, so worried that I wouldn’t know where to go or what to do, so terrified of being alone and so far from everything I knew and loved. I’ve had the same group of friends since I was 12 years old, and I’m not historically good with new people… so before the move, I caught myself awake in bed at 1am, reading articles entitled things like “How to Make Friends as an Adult.”

But as it turns out, Portland was basically built for people just like me. Want endless new activity options like haunted pub crawls and underwear bike rides? Check! Looking for somewhere with a rich culture, and inhabitants who are immensely passionate about art, music, craft beer, or all of the above? Check check! Need a city where 60% of the population are fellow transplants from other states, so literally everyone you meet is on a let’s-explore-and-try-new-things-and-go-on-adventures kick? Check, check, check! Living in Portland is like having a making-new-friends starter kit.

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Weirdness. They’re not kidding when they call Portland weird – the whole city is an island of misfit toys. If America were a high school lunchroom, Portland would be the table of eclecticism – it would include a few band geeks, some sign-carrying activists, brooding artists, gregarious performers, bookworms, that guy who goes barefoot because he thinks shoes are a sign of oppression, and probably a unicyclist. If the whole rest of the country asks you to fit into a stereotype (“Oh, you’re from San Diego? Do you surf?”), Portland is where stereotypes go to die. It’s the type of city to open its arms and say, “Yeah – we know you’re a freak. It’s cool, though, we are too. Come on in.”

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Weather. Speaking of San Diego, the main thing I was warned about here was the rain. In fact, it was more or less all I heard about. When I finally arrived here, and I kept hearing about the rain, I actually got really defensive about it. I told all my San Diego friends that it didn’t even rain that much, we actually went 125 days in a row last year without a single rainy day, and that it was beautiful and sunny a LOT of the time and that they shouldn’t believe everything they hear.

But as a bona fide Portlander now, I’m not going to say that anymore. In fact, I think I’m contractually obligated to tell you the following:

It rains. SO. MUCH. All day, every day. Portland is a horrible, gray, rainy city all the time. Tell your friends. No sunshine, EVER. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

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People. The other thing? Portland people really are the best people in the world. I don’t know what it is, maybe there’s something in the water. Maybe we’re all just so relieved to finally fit in somewhere, maybe we’re all just collectively exploring who we are, maybe we’re just sharing this adventure together. But Portlanders are a special breed – legitimately kind, genuine and curious and dimensional.

And good people. Remember that time when a complete stranger went miles out of his way to help me change a flat tire? Remember Bearded Ryan, the superhero who embarked on a wild goose chase to track me down and return personal documents to me that he’d found on the side of the road? And of course, the person who had every right to screw me over, but instead left me a friendly reminder to be a better person:

These were all Portlanders. Do you get what I’m saying?

The city. You guys, I get to walk to work every day. Which is something I’ve never had the privilege of saying, and it’s freaking oh-my-god-crazy-fantastic.

Have you ever lived in a city before? I mean in an actual living, pulsating city with an actual heartbeat and a personality? Have you ever walked through that city by yourself on a lively evening? Have you done it in boots and a peacoat, with really good music in your headphones, and the kindest people on Earth nodding at you cheerfully as you pass?

I have!

The country. Little-known fact (actually it’s probably pretty widely known, I’m just really in the dark about everything, all the time): Portland is the largest city in Oregon. And even Portland, in fact, is pretty tiny with all things considered: it’s made up of approximately 584k people – about 18% of the population of, say, San Diego County for instance.

And the rest of Oregon? Get this: the entire state is made up of less than 4mm people. Meaning Portland makes up roughly a sixth of the population of Oregon, even though the city itself only accounts for 0.14% (less than a quarter of a percent) in total square mileage.

All this to say, a lot of my state is made up of the polar opposite of my quirky urban setting: quaint, rural towns where people raise livestock and farm Christmas trees on acres and acres of land. Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a pie auction in one of these towns – the proceeds of which went to a modest scholarship fund for high-achieving youths at their local high school.

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pie auction, you guys. Pies that had won awards at county fairs, women who I’m sure had perfected recipes over generations, a hundred people crammed into what used to be a high school gym – where everyone knew each other by first name and teased one another affectionately (“Next up – a chocolate fudge pie, which we all know is going to Hank…”). It was wholesome and authentic and it absolutely warmed my heart.

The forest. Last but not least, Portland would be incomplete without the glory of nature that surrounds us. They don’t call them evergreens for nothing – the Pacific Northwest is overgrowing with life. Vines creeping around light posts, rogue leaves peeking through cracks in the sidewalk… and moss, endless and everywhere.

You get the sense that if the apocalypse came tomorrow, it wouldn’t take long for the Earth to reclaim this city – the land is practically twitching with anticipation for it. In literally every direction there is green, trees and plants who seem almost smug in their assuredness. And it only takes a short stroll off the beaten path, into another world where long leafy tendrils are draped across great mossy branches – to be reminded of how small we really are, how trivial our problems, how life will continue going on long after we’re gone.

That’s what Portland is, really – the perfect blend of city, country, and forest. The most amazing people, the most incredible culture, and the most delicious food carts. (Oh right I didn’t even talk about those…)

Long story short, here I am: three months in, surrounded by a collection of truly amazing people and with a ton of new experiences under my belt… and I’m actually awed at how anxious I originally was. Because now that I’m here, it seems odd that I’ve ever been anywhere else.

I slipped into Portland like a bird in the night, and it feels as if I must have been here the whole time.

Throwback Thursday: The Nutshell Version Turns 1!

GUESS. WHAT.

After the next Hunger Games movie comes out, they’re going to start releasing prequels so the ADVENTURE ISN’T OVER YET. (In unrelated news: I have the literary and cinematic maturity of a 13-year-old girl.)

That’s not actually what I was gonna say, though. Guess what else!

That’s right – this week marks my one-year anniversary of starting this blog!!!

This fact was brought to my attention by Timehop, perhaps the greatest social invention of our generation.

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“You LIAR, I’m looking at your archived posts right now and they go all the way back to December 2013!” – Nobody

Well, Nobody, technically you’re right. I had a full two months of blogging under my belt before I worked up the courage to tell anyone. But I’m still counting this as my anniversary because uh… well, because this is my blog and I don’t have to answer to Nobody. (baddum, tsssss)

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought I’d pull a 90s-sitcom-series-finale and do a flashback montage of all its greatest hits.

The thing is, guys, this blog changed my life.

This blog post got me a job (a job I absolutely love). This one was featured on Freshly Pressed, which catapulted my love of blogging to a new dimension. This one helped me cope with my tumultuous year of three-moves-in-10-months, and this one and this one acted as writing therapy as I went through my recent break-up.

I wrote not one open letter but two – and I went through this weird phase where I really wanted to share my thoughts on random things like happiness and motivation and decision-making. I’m honored and humbled to report that my schoolteacher aunt used this post to demonstrate the literary term “hyperbole” to her students.

I also got the opportunity to publicly reminisce about my childhood via journal entries dating back to 1997, tell a heartbreaking story of 5th grade love and loss, and unearth an old Girl Scout project that hadn’t seen the light of day in 10 years.

And finally, I talked about being awkward an awful lot… because I am. I am really awkward.

It’s been a pretty sweet year, y’all – thanks for humoring me. Here’s to many more random posts to come.

Okay fine let’s talk about Tinder.

I’ll be honest, you guys. I debated for a long time whether I should write this post. because (a) My family, friends, and coworkers read my blog… and I’m not sure how eager they are to hear of my online dating exploits, and (b) “Online dating exploits” would be one thing, Tinder is another.

Up until a few weeks ago, all I knew about Tinder was that it was a dating app… and, more specifically, that it didn’t exactly have a reputation for creating deep, successful, long-standing relationships. It was suggested to me as a way to meet people, now that I’m a single gal living alone in a big city.

But being on Tinder is vaguely akin to reading 50 Shades of Grey or watching Magic Mike – everybody knows that everybody’s read/seen it, but there’s still something of an unspoken understanding that no one openly talks about it. You don’t do it in public. And if it does ever come up in conversation, it’s selective and deliberate.

I even heard that here in Portland, “We met at New Seasons” (a local organic grocery store) has become code for “We met on Tinder.”

Which is why, when I joined Tinder, I told myself I was joining more as a social experiment than anything. I think I even used the words “it’ll make a good blog post” at some point in my internal reasoning.

First of all, here’s how Tinder works:

You fill out a comprehensive questionnaire detailing your values, passions, and personality type…

You’re given the opportunity to profile what you’re looking for in a partner, likes, dislikes, and…

You just swipe. Right if you like them, left if you don’t. And what information are you given to make this decision? Family history, religious affiliation, political views, life aspirations… picture, name, age.

So in other words, being on Tinder is kinda like saying, “Here, lemme just sit down and pass superficial judgement on complete strangers for a few minutes. NBD.”

To be fair, you are also given a 500-character description, and you get to see whether you have any shared interests or friends on Facebook.

…That is, if you take the extra step of clicking on their profile.

But as one of my more Tinder-savvy friends pointed out, there’s a reason that requires an extra click. The idea, she tells me, is to just make a split-second gut decision. When I explained to her that I open every single profile, read every single description, and scroll through all of the available photos, she said, “God, that sounds exhausting.”

And she was right. Tinder is exhausting, in so many new and interesting ways.

My two least favorite features of the app:

  • When you swipe left, it stamps the picture “NOPE.” Which would not have been my specific inflection, okay? I’m not a jerk. It should be something more like “I’m sorry, you seem great, but I’m just not that into weight lifting…”
  • When you’re notified of a match, you are prompted to (a) tell your friends (which seems odd) or (b) “keep playing.” Like the whole thing is a game. Which I guess it kinda is.

And it’s exhausting, most of all, because it’s starting to make me lose faith in the male race. Or just humanity in general. To save time, I created a few ground rules for myself of what would qualify someone as an automatic no:

  • Mirror selfies (I know, I’m sorry. You probably just don’t have any pictures of yourself so you’re improvising. But I just can’t get over seeing a toilet and towel rack over your shoulder. I can’t.)
  • Spelling errors (I try not to be a nazi over this, but if you have 500 characters to display yourself to the world and you do so with a typo, we probably shouldn’t hang out.)
  • The words “no drama.” (You boys are JUST as dramatic, don’t be insulting.)
  • Pictures of you lifting one corner of your shirt to show your abs.
  • Actually, come to think of it, any picture that only exists to show your muscles. (Are there really girls out there who swoon over this?)

IMG_1426This was an ACTUAL guy’s ACTUAL profile picture. I’m not making this up.

After awhile I started noticing trends – like “looking for a down to earth girl.” What does that even mean?

Like, what would the opposite of a down to earth girl be? An up-in-the-sky girl? Cuz that’s me.

Also, “adventure” is a word that comes up a lot. As in, “I love adventure” or “Let’s go on an adventure.” I’m not sure what to make of this, but for me it conjures images of Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

Not every guy’s profile falls into these categories, though. I’ve come across a few good ones…

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Some guys feel honesty is the best policy…

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Some use it as an opportunity to express their poetic side…

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This guy, who used his four pictures to make a zoom-in meme:

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And then there’s this old gem:

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It’s also exhausting just based on the sheer volume of possible interactions. No joke, here was my very first hour on the app:

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The number of human beings on this app is staggering. And since I’m not exactly the best follow-up person in the world, having to keep up with dozens of conversations at once isn’t exactly my strong suit.

Luckily, some guys make it really easy by weeding themselves out for me:

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IMG_1429Okay, that one was kinda funny.

I could list more, there are a lot of creep-os on Tinder, but I’m already toeing the line on appropriateness here so I’ll stop. And anyway, not all conversations are bad…

Like the guy I had a serious, very technical, in-depth conversation with about how to rate potential romantic partners…

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Or this guy, who used my only weakness against me…

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All in all, the whole thing has been super bizarre. I have not met the guy version of Tinderella, I have no success stories to report, and I still feel squeamish even posting this because Tinder is so taboo. In fact, now that I’ve got my blog post written I might just go ahead and delete it.

…Maybe just after a couple more swipes.