Reports of Portland’s Death Are Great Exaggerated

OFFERIn the fall, on the worst day for a helicopter ride over Portland, Oregon, in months, I climbed into the Robinson 44 helicopter and soar over the Rose City that I had adopted. The chirping of birds rose from the roof of the Portland Police Department headquarters, the understaffed agency that had positioned itself at the heart of all the major problems of the big city, a town known throughout the country. during the past two decades. The strange “Portlandia” now faces: a skyrocketing murder rate; gun violence increased alarmingly; homeless camps sprang up from one end of town to the other and concealed convoys of stolen cars and bicycles; Meth and heroin addicts openly smoke and shoot in the streets, a series of problems affecting a city once known for its good food, beautiful parks, and “odd” and small-town people. about Chicken Colin.

Leaving the police shop, the helicopter passed the luxury car Hotel Nines it’s home for the weekend and to downtown ravaged by two years of pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, riots and scuffles between antifa and Proud Boys. We were too high up to see anything but the confluence of beautiful old and new architecture, of rivers, forests and roads, a nice way to watch Portland’s troubles melt away. , step back to admire the city’s indelible beauty even if it means not squinting too closely at the grit that has caused thousands of discouraged residents to leave and reach the suburbs, or completely away from the west coast where cities seem to be battling similar plagues.

Oregon police in riot gear march toward protesters through smoke of tear gas during the 100th day and night of protests against racism and police brutality in Portland, Oregon, on May 5. September 2020.

ALLISON/AFP/Getty dine-in

I made myself a tourist in Portland this fall after I realized I didn’t know what to think about Portland anymore. That’s where everyone seems to have an opinion, whether you’re a Fox News host raising the city as an example of failed liberalism or an All Cops Are Bastards activist available willing to smear city officials and their gendarmes for their hard work on protesters. Being a tourist here is a kind of bubble of its own, especially because it means spending a few days out of a few weeks hopping into boutique hotels and dining at great restaurants. , visit art museums and gardens and just walk – I left my car at home and went through Lyft and walked. But tourism is how 11 million people will experience Portland in 2021, and it is by visiting the city, seeing and interacting with its characters that Portland tells its story to the world. From my first joint trip to Ace Hotel, I see a portrait of Portland open. Coolio was on the driver’s radio and he just passed away at the age of 59 of a heart attack. I mumbled “RIP,” which led to a 15-minute conversation between two white guys as seriously and as amusingly as possible, about what it was like to be black growing up in America.

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I went to the Ace and found a dingy corner room with a broken leather couch and a tape recorder that wouldn’t play to a nearby speaker, so it was like a live reenactment. continues the feel of an Old Portland apartment. Its tenant in a punk band, sleeps in the coca-addicted night shift in Common Clyde (closed during the pandemic.) The next day, I walked to Japanese Gardenwhere the gracious host reminded me that racist protesters welcomed the opening of this wonderful getaway in the 1960s. A 40-minute walk back and forth the gardens climb from the center. city ​​and into the hills northwest of the city, which are filled with foliage and dense Douglas fir trees.

The Ace Hotel in Portland.

Katelyn Bradley / Alamy

I grew up in Berkeley, California, where I always felt unsafe in the inner city and where the school system was rife with gang violence. Not long after I moved to Oregon in 2003 to write about the coast, I chose Portland as the city I wanted to live in. I have friends who settle here for college or after graduation and will visit them when I need urban repairs. I love everything about the city: the food, the beer, the great people, shopping on Mississippi Street or walking in the Alberta Arts District, dancing in Chinatown, hiking in Forest Park. It’s not too big and not too small. Portland feels at home, even if it’s not my home. It took another 12 years to finally land here. After losing a few auctions, I found a home that I could barely afford to take a short walk to so many amenities I never dreamed I could walk to: a beautiful tablets; my favorite grocery store; one Oaxacan joint diving with the best carnitas in town; and vibrant colors Kennedy Schoolan old elementary school reimagined with a plunge pool, five fun bars with good beer if mediocre food, even a movie theater and concert venue.

Over the next seven years, the city has certainly changed some. The tech brothers moved in from California and Seattle, forcing a lot of bartenders and waiters to leave the city or into homes with lots of other people in them. When in 2020, the pandemic combined with racial and housing equity reckoning, rising rents, restaurant closures, and raging wildfires, the city certainly felt bleak, and I hid. Avoid it as often as possible.

But it was still Portland, all the time. While beloved organizations like Paley’s place and Beast permanently closed, my favorite eateries — dove, Hat Yai, Padee — move into a takeaway business and build innovative outdoor seating. People wear masks to walk in Forest Park and the Columbia River Gorge, but neither these nor the city’s rich walkable neighborhoods have lost their inherent beauty. My favorite white-water rivers, from the McKenzie to the Deschutes to the Klickitat, all keep flowing. People still gather to watch the sunset at Skidmore Bluffs. I hold small groups of friends as often as I can, in the backyard. Nowhere else I’ve traveled, including outdoor havens like Bend, Oregon, or Revelstoke, British Columbia, feel like they can replace what Portland still has to offer.

After walking in the Japanese Garden on a bluebird October day, I had dinner at Olive DollyThe latest offer from a group of restaurants once supported by John Gorham, one of the chefs who helped make Portland a legendary food and drink scene. Gorham literally ran out of town, after his battle with brain cancer angered him over a Facebook comment by a troll taking advantage of him. But the restaurants he built and the culture he helped bring to life are still here.

Portland’s Japanese Garden.

Educational Image / Universal Image Group via Getty

The next night, I came Kann, one of the city’s hottest tickets, the creation of another chef who has faced a changing city. Gregory Gourdet built his reputation at Departure, the trans-Asian wonder on the rooftop of Hotel Ninesand he found himself among the dubious eateries accused of allowing mistreatment in a way that locals “Bill.” Gourdet’s modern homage to his Haitian roots is not only outstanding, but possibly one of the most diverse kitchens in the city.

The highlight of the “trip” is definitely triangle, where chef John Conlin has reimagined the space that formerly housed the upscale seafood restaurant Roe, where Conlin was head chef. Conlin told me that a wave of restaurant closures hit Portland during the worst of the pandemic, and that the protests opened doors. “I have never been able to sign a lease like this,” he said. Business has been steady since opening in November 2021, even as the downtown area where Tercet (and Conlin himself) live continues to struggle. Although he looks a little more over his shoulder walking to work than he did when he first moved to Portland a few years ago, Conlin isn’t worried about Portland.

“Most of the people who are super staunch about Portland haven’t actually been here yet,” he said. “They are just repeating what they are reading on the news. A lot of people are betting big money on Portland coming back, and I tend to agree. There’s a giant skyscraper two blocks from the Ritz Carlton, that’s exactly the kind of traffic I wanted to see.”

Another reincarnation that I visit in the fall is Cafe Olli, where Taylor Manning, former culinary chef of legendary Ava Gene’s is making great pizza, pasta, baked goods and catering in a neighborhood on the east side of the city that has become more dodgy in the past few years via. But haters are exaggerating, Manning said. “In Black Lives Matter, people act like Portland is on fire, based on a few blocks downtown.” While the streets around the restaurant saw an increase in crime and homelessness, Manning was striding. “Instead of being pushed back by it, we just try to embrace it,” hosting a daily community meal on the $0-$15 sliding scale, no questions asked, to anyone in need. “There is so much to do in Portland, but from the coast to the canyons, there is so much to love in Oregon.”

Over the next few weeks, I put on my Portland travel hat one after the other. I watched the Ukrainian folk band dakhabrakha play a strong show at Art Center Patricia Reser (located just outside Portland); Lera Lynn croon in front of a passionate crowd at Polaris . Hall; Arooj Aftab Supported by an avid guitarist and surprisingly loud harpist at Aladdin Theater and the Australian phenomenon Julia Jacklin share her songwriting skills with sold-out tickets Hall of the Revolution, all within ten days. I had an epic spa day, right in the heart of downtown at Knot Springs, where I switched from a hot sauna to a cold soak in preparation for one of the best massages I’ve ever had. I saw a hilarious spoof of The Lost Boys come to life at Siren Theater in dodgy Chinatown. I went on a crawling feed Saint John, one of the few neighborhoods in Portland that hasn’t lost any of its edge or charm during my time exploring Stumptown. And just yesterday, I drove out to the beach on a cold but sunny day to pick mushrooms in the Tillamook Forest, returning with a bumper crop of golden mushrooms and a pleasantly exhausted border collie.

Nothing about my mini fall vacation in Portland was hampered by very real problems that make it difficult for many people to live, work or reproduce here. But I do know that most American cities and especially those on the west coast are dealing with problems with housing, income inequality, drug overdoses, and crime. asset. Some neighborhoods have been hit harder than others, and thankfully the one I live in isn’t bad (yet), but Portland remains the best city in the country, even as it grows and changes. It’s still crafty, still a collection of a charming neighborhood interconnected, still full of beautiful parks and a great live music scene and world-class eateries and friendly people, nerds, even if they are overwhelmingly white. Most of the things my neighbors don’t like about Portland are simply a product of how the world has changed, as globalism, capitalism, and global capitalism have changed. causing many people and many places to fail. But it’s still a pretty cool place to live, on any given day.


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