There's no way for me to have an outsider's perspective -- I've lived in Portland my whole life and I've always wondered what people in other cities think of us. What kind of suspicions and stereotypes do people harbor about Oregonians? Besides the centuries-old "everybody in Oregon lives in the woods" belief?

In recent cyber-history, two opinion pieces went up on the same day: one on the link-gathering news site Kotaku (which deals with video games, usually) and one on Gawker (which owns Kotaku and runs a similar site devoted to celebrity gossip with a sprinkling of political rantings). Coincidentally, both pieces were about Portland.

The Kotaku writer had just transplanted to Oregon from California the previous year, but was cautious about mentioning it to anyone, because he'd heard Oregonians don't like Californians very much. This is a popular belief, and though I can't speak for the majority of the state, nobody in Portland really cares where you came from, or how many bright colors your T-shirt has, or if you drive a convertible (the weather is your punishment for that).

However, one California-centric behavior absolutely can get your butt kicked in Portland...supporting the Lakers.

So, no California license plates, no California phone number, no California address on my checks, I've been here a year and didn't, haven't and won't take anyone's job. Am I officially an Oregonian now?

Responses were mixed. One person in the comments section was rather strict about it:

You're only allowed to call yourself an Oregonian if:
A - You were born here
B - You moved here before age of 3 and have never left.
C - You married an Oregonian and plan to raise kids here.

What are we, the Stonecutters?

anabbeynormality 07/12/10
I've been in Portland almost 3 years now. I love it here.

I haven't gotten any beef for being an "outsider", but I guess most of the people I know are from elsewhere too. Only one of my friends is actually from Oregon and she's from Sandy. I guess if I was a Portland native, I would be annoyed at all the people moving here crowding the city, competing for jobs, and raising housing prices, but they certainly get enough of my taxes for me to feel like I've earned my place here.

I don't feel angry about outsiders raising housing prices because.....housing prices haven't been much of a problem here lately. Or anywhere else.

iblowtrees 07/11/10
I just moved to Portland from Southern California 2 months ago last week.

It's pretty dang nice up here.


honestgamer 07/12/10
Oregon is really an amazing state, with so many different environments all crammed within the state. I went from the "high desert" and its sagebrush and juniper trees to the beautiful Oregon Coast, with its... wind and rain, mostly. Love this state!


krome 07/11/10
seems to me, as a native Californian, that Oregon is the CA state of mind without the high prices. I dig OR.


my_fist 07/11/10
Oregon is cool. Portland is awesome.


Cynical1 07/11/10
Owen, one Eugenian/Springtuckian to another: Welcome home.

If you trace the lineage of the true california haters in Oregon back far enough, you inevitably find A: Someone who's from California, or B: Someone who was a KKK member. Ignore them.


analogfantasies 07/11/10
Glad to see all of the Oregon love. I've lived here all of my 31 years. In fact, I'm fourth generation on both sides of my family. It literally has something for everyone, whether they be a desert rat or beach bum. One of my favorite activities as a child was exploring caves over in eastern Oregon during the summer.


BacteriaEP 07/11/10
Hey I recently moved to Oregon from California as well. Downtown Portland actually... love it here.

You know what really got me? The car registration. I registered my car and it cost me like $225 or something like that. I thought it was pretty standard since CA charged me like $250... whatever. Until I found out it was for 4 FREAKING YEARS!

And then a few weeks later I got something from the CA DMV asking me to re-register my car and it was going to cost $450 for a single year.

I love Oregon. Never going back. This place is heaven.

Well....sweet! I guess the outsider's opinion of Portland couldn't be better, right? NOT SO FAST.

The Gawker piece was somewhat different. Gawker, as they revealed, hates Portland. More specifically, they hate Portlanders. More specificallier, they hate you.

The only thing the denizens of Portland, Oregon love more than homebrew kombucha is a good backlash. What the Times calls the city's "new provincialist" ethos is a backlash against America's Walmartification. But here comes the backlash against the backlash!

Homebrew what? I know the hotlink leads to a convenient explanation revealing it's a kind of tea, but the point stands that if I walked up to anyone on the street right now and asked them what a "kombucha" is, over half would either tell me it's a brand of vacuum or some kind of Pokemon.

Portland's current cultural fetishization is the local: Food, bikes, bands. For many, things made and consumed exclusively in Portland are the only things worth making and consuming. Anything that sneaks out of this Fortress of Solipsism is on track for an epic backlash. Portland has yet to secede from the Union and erect a high-tech electronic fence around its borders, so the backlash never ends, as bands get picked up by major labels, brands explode, and the whole thing sells out.

If these people exist in Portland and are as severe as Gawker claims, I'd like to know where they are. Being a cartoonist in a world that has evolved beyond the need to pay for cartoons is rough. If there are crazy elitists in my neighborhood who won't touch anything created 50 miles away and buy all their food at Saturday Market, I need to find them. I could sell so many books!

Portland's infinite backlash loop is probably best illustrated by the case of artisanal coffee roaster Stumptown, the vanguard of coffee's "third-wave." Launched as the anti-Starbucks, Stumptown is now positioned to become the new Starbucks. We predicted a national backlash against Stumptown once it started opening shops in flyover country and became basically Starbucks with fancier coffees and clients who pretend to be able to tell the difference between them.

But in Portland, each cultural entity is born almost simultaneously with its backlash. Anti-Stumptown sentiment has existed almost as long as Stumptown. Even before the roaster lost its local cred a couple years ago by opening its first store "abroad" (in New York), alternatives had popped up for those who thought Stumptown had become too corporate. (In Portland, anything that makes enough money to stay in business is "too corporate".)

I don't drink coffee, and if I did, I wouldn't go to some fancy building to pay over three bucks for one cup. But if this "outrage" at Stumptown Coffee even exists, I seriously doubt it's because of success. What people are most likely afraid of are the potential side-effects of success: the franchise losing its soul, being bought by News Corp or something, and depositing factory-assembled lookalikes at every corner mini-mall. Those are valid concerns. (I don't care either way, actually -- like I said, I don't drink smelly eight-dollar bean juice.)

The piece goes on to describe a brawling incident between two (clearly drunk) chefs, one of which was upset that the other chef won a local cooking contest using non-local ingredients. A sober person wouldn't care about this; it proves nothing. But Gawker considers the incident not only legitimate but representative of everybody here.

Anyone who thinks the double-backlash is the harmless pastime of a bunch of white people in a damp Pacific Northwest enclave would do well to look at Bechard and Lowe's battered mugshots. As successive backlashes drive maddened Portlanders ever-more militantly local, this whole thing might end in a Civil War.

If Gawker keeps using terms like "damp Pacific Northwest enclave," it probably will, but for different reasons.

But some of the remarks in the comments were even worse. Everybody who liked Portland was over at Kotaku that day.

Wannabeer 07/10/10
Wow. Portland is actually part of France.


patria 07/09/10
It's also the land of Birkenstock clad aging hipsters who are passionate about not breaking any of the rules while letting you know that you don't know half as much as they do. They use little known recycling tips and regulations to bash people they consider beneath them (everyone else).


Vivien Smith-Smythe-Smith 07/10/10
This is seriously great. Who new Portland had anything other than denizens of 90s indie bands?


TheUptightMidwestern... 07/09/10
Reading that article pretty much made me decide that I can never go to Portland.
That would be the place I would finally kill someone.


Signal to Noise 07/09/10
Oregon's Supreme Court ruling that nudity is protected speech has a lot to do with that. There aren't your normal laws banning nudity in public.

Really. I didn't know that had been rolled back. Here I've been buying clothes like a sucker.

krismry 07/11/10
We always wondered why several of my friends, who lived in Portland, travelled all over the world but would comment "We don't do it this way in Portland" or "This is much better in Portland" or "Portland, Portland Portland." Now we know why.

I'll tell you why -- it's because we really do have it better here.

....Okay, that sounded awfully elitist. Maybe they have a point.

I won't deny that some hostile hipster hippies exist in Portland, the kind that would refuse service to someone because that person is a cop (now that's hardcore). There's plenty of evidence in Willamette Week alone -- if your beliefs aren't extremely left, you'll be insulted by at least one thing in every issue. But there are also people like that in Seattle and Los Angeles and New York and pretty much any major metropolis. If you look at any politically color-coded map, blue spots tend to collect in ALL urban settings, not just Portland's. It's not fair to pick on us specifically.

Another thing. Being a hipster or a hippie does not automatically make someone bad. It's the person himself, or herself, that's rude. I'm sure there are hipsters that are perfectly polite; they just don't get press because other people like to hate on them. And that's nothing new.

You're wired to make quick blanket judgments about everything, so that if you were surviving in the wild and one animal beat you up, you would assume every other animal in that species should be avoided. This is an irrational instinct you have to fight, because it's caused humanity nothing but misery for millennia. Before you buy into another stereotype, stop and think first. Believing that every single Mexican likes tacos and every single Christian is Fred Phelps and every single Southerner is a backwards redneck does not make rational sense.

Aside from these two pieces, I haven't heard many outsiders express their opinion of Portland. I would much rather have Kotaku's viewpoint spread than Gawker's, but if both were in plain view to everyone, most would pick the Gawker piece simply because it was negative and believing horrible things about other people makes you feel better about yourself.

But stereotypes aside, there's one point we can all agree on: zombies. The same day both these pieces went up, a news item also appeared describing a Portland highway accident involving a group of people dressed like zombies. The police arrived and thought their injuries were much more life-threatening -- that, or they had just risen from their deaths and were out for brains. No matter what you believe, any city where something like that can happen is an undeniably cool one.