Three Months In Portland

I almost didn’t notice (and probably would not have if I were busier than I currently am), but last week marked that I’ve now lived in Portland for three months. In those three months I’ve been busy enough to nearly forget my own birthday, I’ve looped around Portland on Streetcar in full 38 times (and hundreds of shorter trips), Mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I’ve learned the hard way that outsourcing IT is indeed cheaper than having on-site staff.

So, yes, I’m no longer at Schoolhouse, which is why I moved to Portland in the first place (well, that and I was ready for a change in coast). While that has meant I’ve finally had time to actually settle into my apartment, that also comes at a not great time given my student loans enter repayment next month and things, well to be honest, they just look bad. So I’ve been actively searching for a job here in Portland to the point that I’ve now gone through the entire Jobs page on LinkedIn. Yes, I’ll admit that.

I have little doubt that my mixed feelings on living in Portland are, in part, influenced by that fact. Portland is a very green, mostly clean, and relatively safe city. Philly was not. Those three points largely depended on what district of Philly you were in, and in Philly, that was a very clear thing. In Portland, there are districts, which I could name some of, but if you asked me what their boundary lines are, I wouldn’t have a clue. I still don’t know what the proper area name for where I live is: Downtown or University District. For all I know, it could be both.

Yet, even with its grime and crime, Philly remains a city I loved living in. It was a city that was very much transforming, and I think I would’ve liked to be around to witness more of it. The only major thing I’ve seen happen in Portland is the opening of the Orange Line. I know there’s a ton of construction going on up north in the Pearl District where – literally – entirely new communities are being built. Other than that, Portland feels very stale compared to Philly.

I haven’t had the chance to visit Portland’s art museum yet (never mind that it’s three Streetcar stops away), but I absolutely miss Philly’s. I’d love to go see Portland’s Japanese garden, but like Philly’s, it’s not easy to get to on public transit (I find it remarkable how underserved parks always seem to be by public transit.) SEPTA I really, really miss. Portland Streetcar is nice, and it is clean and safe. TriMet just outright sucks. In New Jersey, NJ Transit had a really terrible coverage area where I lived, but even it was more reliable than TriMet ever has been. In Philly, SEPTA had a huge coverage area, did have issues, but SEPTA’s overall reliability performance was far better than TriMet’s in three months. TriMet’s reliability sets the gold standard in terrible. So does its customer service (or lack thereof.) It’s dirtier than SEPTA, and there have been several trips where I honestly thought SEPTA was safer. TriMet badly needs to switch off of the proof-of-payment system. Streetcar could afford to as well, but it hasn’t been as bad (no doubt due to the fact one coupled MAX train roughly equals two and-a-half Streetcars.)

So am I happy in Portland? Well, I don’t hate it here, but I’m not really loving it here either. The weather I do, so far, like a lot better than Philly for sure. Powell’s books blows Borders out of the water. The coffee here is OK, but I haven’t found a replacement for Rival Brothers yet. In Philly, there was always something going on, and it was very easy to find out what. I haven’t seen that in Portland yet. Is there more tech here in Portland than Philly? Hard to tell. Yes, we have a massive Intel facility in Hillsboro, eBay has an office right down the street from me, Panic is across from Powell’s, and Puppet is near Old Town/Chinatown. While we have several big names, I don’t know that we have that many companies in general. Sure, Philly was more startup tech than established tech (Comcrap being the exception), but at least Philly felt like a tech hub. Portland is kinda like a Silicon Valley annex (and I’m sure I just pissed off both Portland and the Valley with that…)

Bottom line, my future here in Portland is uncertain. I certainly can’t afford a big move on my own any time soon, so I’ll be staying in Portland for now, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to call it home. Not yet.

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