Friday, September 29, 2000

A Portland Overview

Portland is one of those towns where East meets West in a disarmingly friendly metropolitan town. East in the sense that it's close to Asia. The large Asian population and the people from states east of Oregon flock to this town of 1.7 million people for its quality living features. I learned a lot about Portland while there on this quick trip. First, it's pronounced "or-gon" and if you say "or-e-gon," as I did, Oregonians will quickly, but kindly, correct you. The town is nestled between two rivers, the Columbia and Willamette, which Portland-ites will quickly correct as Will-AM-ette, not Will-iam-ette. Manhattan-ites with their distinction of Houston Street being pronounced Hew-ston will appreciate that Couch Street Fish is not pronounced like the sofa we sit on but like "kooch." My pal Augi Garred (more on this fine chap later) pointed out that Matt Groenig, creator of The Simpsons and a Portland native, named characters after city streets. There is Burnside for Mr. Burns and a Flanders street.
The city's layout is a marvel of urban design. Divided into quadrants (NE, NW, SE, SW), the avenues are numbered and the streets are alphabetically named after Portland's founders and other key figures. Although I only took taxis and a pedestrian ricksaw, MAX, their public transportation is a marvel, with free service in the inner city and a bang-for-your-buck fare to the outer burbs. I thought this advanced city's Smart Parks were technology centers, but found out it's just their park and ride system. In addition to a glorious outdoors and an efficient transportation system, Portland is headquarters to major firms with vast "campuses" -- Intel has eight, Hewlett-Packard has 12 satellite offices, and Nike offers soccer fields and running tracks.