Just A Tiny Taste

A seven hour visit to a new city cannot possibly give you a complete and fully accurate idea of what it would be like to live there. But it can make a good impression.

Work took me to Portland, Oregon today. The get-up-and-go and same-day travel part was grueling, and the work itself was only so much fun. But having lunch with a fellow Leaguester (thanks for taking me to Urban Farmer, Tod!) was a great pleasure and from the fleeting taste of the city I got, I felt like I’d seen a glimpse of a better kind of urban life than I’ve been used to in Los Angeles.

Portland’s light rail system runs from the airport to downtown, precisely meeting my needs. It was slower than I’d anticipated and that left my lunch date waiting longer than I had thought but without imposing that stress on myself, it was overall a good public transportation experience. Yes, there were some sketchy looking folks on the train but that’s life in the big city.

The train has a no-charge zone for the downtown business district. I thought that was great. Not only did I not mind paying five bucks for an all-day, all-zones pass, I could see huge value to the retail and commercial and hospitality industries by increasing easy and stress-free access to the downtown region. Cheaper and considering traffic about as fast as a cab and way less stressful (even with some sketchy fellow passengers) than renting a car.

Speaking of “stress-free,” I had to suppress laughter when the airport announcer wished new arrivals to the city a “stress-free” day. I mean, how perfect is that for a stereotypical city of happy hippies? And there are plenty of hippy types wandering about, of a broad spectrum of ages.

Tod took me to a restaurant that fulfilled Portland’s reputation as a locavore paradise. I want to go back just to sample more of the interesting looking places to eat I saw from the train to downtown.

Downtown looks good too. Reminded me of downtown Milwaukee, which is a compliment. Handsome older buildings and preserved postbellum architecture abound, and while the city did not escape the blight of unimaginative steel-and-concrete office towers most of the buildings I saw had nice detail work and felt urban without feeling too cramped. Many streets are cobbled attractively or bricked nicely and a focal point of the business district is a park that takes up a city block with a massive flowerbed, food carts, coffee houses, and access to those free trains.

And it smelled pretty good, as urban areas go. The weather is apparently malleable on short notice; when I got there in the late morning it was pleasantly cool, then it rained a bit, then it was sunny, and when my deposition was done there was a strong, cold breeze. All this in the space of less than seven hours. Frankly, I can dig it, but my wife would find the temperature well below her preference level.

Not all the men had neck beards. But a lot of them did look stuck in the Nineteen Nineties. There did look to be many brewpubs and if I’d not been on such a short trip I’d have very much enjoyes sampling the local beers as much as the local food. And the airport seems nice as that sort of thing goes, too, although my time in PDX was quite brief due to flight scheduling. I did notice that there was a nice restaurant at the airport in the non-secured area which would be very pleasant for people dropping off or picking up passengers or looking to do a fast turnaround meeting. Why more Airports don’t have decent restaurants in their unsecured areas I still haven’t figured out. But this was emblematic of the little details of urban planning that Portland got right.

Business travel generally makes for long, unpleasant days and neutral-to-poor impressions of even the nicest places. And a business trip with a seven hour stay in a city cannot possibly give you a complete idea of what that city is all about. But my day trip to Portland whetted my appetite for more, and I will look forward to a time I can return under more relaxed conditions.

P.S. I’m also a topography nerd. I’ll look at Google Earth for hours at a time, just for fun. I always try for a window seat on a plane for that reason. There is some cool scenery to look at on the flight between PDX and OAK where I make my connection back to SoCal.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed our little city, Burt! 😀

    • You’re young and you live in Portland? Now I have twice as many reasons to be jealous of you.

      • I wish my life was half as wonderful as you think it is. Actually, it’s awesome 😉

      • Why are more mature people jealous of “young” people?

          • I’m glad to hear it JB. I think everyone should be happy in life or change their life until they are happy. Good luck on the hair thing.

          • I don’t miss much that I had then and don’t have now.

            I could easily give up the thirty pounds I’ve added since then, though.

          • Perhaps you are doing it wrong. What has changed since you grew up?

          • If he’s like me he’s acquired awareness of consequences.

          • Consequences? That does not sound fun at all. I can’t imagine the consequences you experience at your age are much different than at my age.

          • It’s not the years. It’s the mileage.

          • Choosing the rematch was definitely a bad move for the Dems, but I’m not sure it wasn’t also their best move.

            Oh, but they are… I was 23 when I got my first real hangover. That’s despite the fact I had previously gotten so drunk that I still don’t know how that conversation turned out with that cute girl in the Southern Miss sweatshirt. Now? It doesn’t require anything like that to get a hangover.

            That wasn’t what I was referring to, though. I think it’s that with age, I have figured out that I am not actually as charismatic and clever when I am drunk as previously supposed, and that’s sort of a buzzkill.

          • “It’s not the years. It’s the mileage.”
            My hangover is giving the nod to Patrick this morning. I’ve got to quit drinking during the work week.

  2. Portland actually is what San Francisco only thinks it is.

    • Seconded.

      When I’d just come back from the Army, my old man flew out to Portland and brought back some magnificent salmon fillets. I was up late and sliced off a few bits, was dipping them in soy sauce and eating them by the light of the refrigerator. My old man came out of his bedroom and said “You’re not gonna eat that raw, are you?”

      I looked at him, soy sauce dripping off my chin and replied “You’re not gonna cook those, are you?”

    • You talk as if fog were a failed attempt at rain.

      • Suck it, Nob. You’re just jealous. I’ve been to Austin several times. Portland rules.

        • Austin has its charms. Houston, however, could be safely bulldozed into the Gulf.

      • In portland, I can WALK. In Austin, I dread dehydration, and must check myself to not seem like I’m running compared to everyone else who has acquired the local habit of the “mosey”.

    • I like Oregon’s better… but only just. and the public transportation is a lot of that.

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