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7 things that keep Portland weird

When I moved to a suburb of Portland, Oregon, I fell into a funk. Missing Snoqualmie and El Chico, I yearned for my friends, for living in the mountains, amidst elk and giant boulders among the pines. Life is easier here; no winding country roads, sidewalks, Amazon, and a farmers' market a 10-minute walk away.

Luna at the Salmon River

Yoali and Canela on the trail to Mirror Lake

Can you see the gnome?

get our dose of nature, we have been exploring Portland’s surrounding trails, hiking long stretches of the Salmon River, viewing Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier from Larch Mountain, and enjoying the many lakes. We also have been enjoying its diverse restaurants. We even explored a Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art.

Portland is the 26th largest city in the US. It is in the Pacific Northwest atop an ancient volcanic field where the Willamette River empties into the Columbia. The city has 12 bridges because it is split east and west by the Willamette River. With 3.2 million people in the metropolitan area, it has almost a 10% Latinx population. This town, known for its breweries and food trucks, can be quirky and weird.

While researching my new city, I discovered some strange facts about Portland I will share with you.

1. Most dangerous city in the US.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Portland was a hub for underground criminal activity and organized crime, making it one of the most dangerous cities. Journalists exposed its illegal gambling, prostitution, crooked unions, and corrupt government.

Mount Hood, a potentially active volcano, looms over the city.

2. Greenest city.

Portland is the greenest city in the US and second in the world. It has an excellent public transportation and bike system, allowing 50% of its population to use it to commute to work. It also has the most vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the country. Waste is treated locally, composted, or recycled, and the government limits urban sprawl. In addition, the community college system has its fleet of eco-friendly buses between four campuses.

3. A battleground for racial justice.

After the murder of George Floyd, Portland had a year of daily protests. This racial justice movement centered on Black lives turned into an anti-establishment fight when it attracted more white Portlanders.

Despite Portland and Seattle’s liberal views, there are 29 hate groups in Washington and Oregon state according to the southern poverty law center. Their counter is the anti-racist named Rose City Antifa.

4. Naked bike ride.

Every summer, Portland holds a clothing-optional human-powered ride through the city to promote cleaner energy and body positivity. Check out a video here.

5. The largest wilderness park.

Portland has the largest wilderness park within city limits in the United States, covering over 5,000 acres, Forest Park. One of the college’s campuses is on its border.

6. Oregon legalized magic mushrooms.

In 2020, the residents of Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for use in therapy sessions. However, to keep big pharma out of psychedelic treatment, they only legalized the mushroom, psilocybe cubensis. They also decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs.

7. The largest bookstore.

Portland boasts the largest independent bookstore in the world. Powell’s City of Books occupies an entire city block and has 10 rooms.

Portland may be strange, but it is also beautiful and fun. I cannot wait for September to meet my colleagues and students. If you live in Portland or have spent time there, write below other weird things you have encountered.

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