That I have fallen in love with Portland is a well-established fact. The weather is gorgeous, the scenery and hills and trees and rivers and RAIN all make me happy. The people are funny and welcoming and kind and creative. The opportunities for doing stuff I love are limitless.
But there are moments when I long for some familiar things I can’t find out here, things that only happened or existed in Chicago. As follows…
Heat: this summer got plenty hot in PDX, but it was a very, very dry heat. For a place that earned a reputation for being damp and lush, Oregon becomes a tinder box in the summer; dry, crispy grass, leaves brown in August, the smoke from forest fires dimming the sun even hundreds of miles away. Chicago has a delicious humidity that I miss.
Storms: Yes, it rains in Portland, though not much in summer, and it hardly ever *storms*. My California friend Tonya spent an entire evening gazing at lightning when she visited Chicago, because the West Coast just doesn’t get storms like we did in the Midwest. The way the earth would swell before a storm, readying for the violent explosion of sky, hail or thunder and lightning, water coming down in sheets, the wonderful relief once the system had passed through, Midwest storms have a potent appeal. And boy, do I miss them.
Being in Blackhawks Country: It was quite a shock to see many people wearing this emblem on hats and t-shirts.
Unfortunately, that’s the emblem for the Portland Winterhawks, a Western Hockey League team with no NHL affiliation. It looks a lot like the true Indianhead from my beloved Chicago Blackhawks
So while there are hockey fans here, and a true hockey team (Winterhawks have won the Western Conference Championship four years in a row, and several of their players have ended up in the NHL), they aren’t Blackhawks fans. In fact, most Portlanders seem to be soccer fans, a trend about which I am flabbergasted. One main road in the city is regularly clogged with soccer fans wearing (of all things) scarves, even in the heat of summer, to demonstrate their team loyalty.
It’s so weird. I mean, who would wear a fuzzy acrylic scarf in the summer? Crazy. I’ll stick to wearing my Blackhawks jersey.
I miss being in the epicenter of hockey fandom. Chicago is an amazing place during hockey season. No one here gets that. Sigh.
Being Alone in Nature: It seems that EVERYONE in Oregon loves to be outside. I can’t find a quiet place to be alone with my thoughts even when I drive 45 minutes into the Gorge, climb the side of a mini-mountain, and carve my own path through the brush. No matter where I go, some Columbia-sandaled-eco-warrior has already sussed out the same spot and is settling in with binoculars to catch a glimpse of the rare Northern Pygmy-Owl. I used to be able to go to my trail in Leroy Oaks and not see another person for miles. I miss that.
Snow: yeah, I said it.
Pizza: Oh, how I miss pizza. Sure, Portland has pizza, and they make a wonderful game of it, too. All the pizza joints, save the most tony, have cute names obviously concocted by Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen. Sizzle Pie. Hot Lips. Pizza Schmizza. Mod Pizza. Come on, guys. Not a single, reliable Italian name you could use?
But the important part is the pies. They’re just so disappointing. From the crust — which is mostly just fluffy bread — to the sauce — can you say Prego, everyone? — none of Portland has cracked the Decent Pizza Code. Typically, when I want pizza, I make it myself from scratch, including the crust, but I don’t always want to do all that work. Sometimes, like yesterday, I just want to go and sit somewhere with my pizza-loving husband and have a satisfying slice. Nothing doing in PDX.
Art Institute of Chicago: I loved wandering the cool halls and drinking in the masterpieces on the walls.
Chicago Symphony: Sigh.
Portillos: my family’s chiming in here to make me add this, but I am content without Portillos. Still, it bears mention; Portillos made wonderful chocolate malts that Sophia and I would get whenever we drove home from a Shriner’s visit.
The list of things I miss is short, and comprises things without which I can happily live. Every once in a while, I jones for one of these, and then I look around and see a Douglas fir or a waterfall or hear an owl just outside my deck, and I forget all about it.
Chicago does indeed have some wonderful things. I hope you will be able to come back for a visit someday; and we’ll go out for pizza.