I was a little surprised when I learned that there are bumper stickers saying “Keep Austin Weird”. I had thought that the slogan belonged to Portland. Turns out that it originated in Austin and Portland usurped it. But in a way, it really does belong to Portland, because Portland really is weird.
As the popularity of the bumper sticker attests, Portlanders are clearly invested in having/keeping this reputation. Some people, like the guy dressed as Darth Vader who rides around on a unicycle playing flaming bagpipes, are overtly campaigning. But if a city is truly weird, that weirdness should permeate everything and be easily observed by a traveler passing through. So, on a recent trip to the Rose City, I decided to do a casual assessment and see if it lives up to its reputation for weirdness.
Portlanders Go By Bike
Portland is considered to be one of the most, if not the most, bike-friendly cities in the U.S., which is kind of remarkable when you consider how much it rains. I’ll leave it to the photo below to explain why that qualifies as weird…
The Animals Are In On It
Portland pets get in on the action too. A few blocks from Laurelhurst Park, I saw a tree with small plastic containers holding dog biscuits. A handwritten sign, addressed to the dogs and “signed” by the cat, invited passing canines to have a snack.
And you can always rent a goat to do your yard work.
Portland Likes Ink
Wandering around people watching, I found myself wondering whether anyone has collected statistics on what is the most tattooed city in the US . They have. Portland comes in at number five (just above Austin).
The city is also very literary. Aside from being home to the largest independent book store in the world, Portland seems to love literature. I encountered small, birdhouse-like structures near the sidewalk, stuffed full of paperbacks and with a sign instructing passersby to please take or trade a book.
There were also signposts with flyers to take. They did not contained advertisements, or information sheets of a home for sale, but rather …poems. The streets are littered (not literally- Portlanders don’t litter) with random acts of poetry.
Other Random Weirdness
Portlanders are ridiculously politically correct. A tablemate of mine asked the waitress at a restaurant where the meat came from. She didn’t blink an eye and came back with the name of the farm – a local one, of course.
There’s good humor too. Older neighborhoods have metal rings embedded in the sidewalks, from the days when you had to tie up your horse. Apparently wanting to remind us of this history, someone in Northeast Portland tied a small (2 inch) plastic horse to one of the rings.
To rest my case, I offer a link to a BuzzFeed list of The 30 Most Portland Things That Have Ever Happened in Portland. Okay Austin, show us what you got?