Friday, August 29, 2008

One final rant before a concerted effort at dormancy

A month out from our Oregon trip, Mila and I are still quite haunted by the experience. Perhaps even more so than when we first returned to Texas about three weeks ago.
We have visited many lovely places together-- the Czech Republic, Colorado, North Carolina, and New England to name a few, but we have never once been gripped by the desire to uproot and actually MOVE.

Until now.

Bil's and Carla's neighborhood (Buckman) is like Austin's Hyde Park--- lots of very cool old houses occupied by creative, community-conscious, left-leaning Gen X-ers--- but Buckman is bigger than Hyde Park and, quite unbelievably, slightly less expensive. The Lamar Blvd. equivalent is Hawthorne Street, but Hawthorne has Lamar beat 10:1 if you are scoring for cool bohemian shops in cool old bohemian buildings. There's just more of them. Plus you can walk to the grocery store AND to 20 pubs, according to Bil's neighbor Dave, though only two of them brew their own beer.
Categories for consideration:
Climate-- NW Oregon posts 222 overcast days per year. The general populace deals with this by consuming prodigious amounts of coffee and super hoppy beer. Carla maintains that the wet, cool climate jibes with her Celtic genes. We didn't fully realize the truth of what she said until we returned to the stifling humidity and blast-furnace temperatures of Central Texas, but Mila and I both felt that our Euro bodies were somehow more attuned to that place than to this one. I offer no explanation.

People-- I was raised to value friendliness, openness, and good manners and to identify these as Southern norms, and unfortunately I also have harbored the misconception that the opposite of these values were "Yankee" norms. Travel has done much to unravel most of this prejudice, especially in the cases of Wisconsin and Massachusetts (but not New York or Michigan, sorry to say). Having eschewed one prejudice I shall, perhaps, rush toward forming another, for we found the people in Portland to be, in the balance, much friendlier, open and helpful than what you might expect to find in Texas. I was (pleasantly) surprised, but it is true.
Portland seemed to be a city filled with educated people with a middle class (though NOT bourgeois) sensibility. From the bus drivers to the rental car lackeys to the librarians to the convenience store clerks, they all came off as more helpful, informative, and industrious than their counterparts in any other American city I have visited.

Crime-- Here's the rub. Crime seems to be a major problem in Portland. We had no sense of this while we were there as we felt perfectly safe the whole time. Safer, indeed, than we feel in Austin. We saw nairy a gaggle of loitering thugs and only heard gangsta rap blaring from a passing car once in 12 days. It seemed, as I have intimated, like a city comprised of bright, educated people.

Some of whom have major drug problems, it would seem.

One demographics website I found gave Portland a crime index rating of almost 450, when the national average is only 100 and our beloved little Round Rock is a paltry 39. Property crime is the main thing, I guess. Murders are rare. Heroine and meth addiction are persistent problems, and the addicts engage in a lot of thievery.

Jobs-- Mila and I have good jobs here that we have excelled at and can almost do in our sleep. Who wants to start afresh and lose time with family as you scramble to learn the ins and outs of a new career? Plus, due to higher cost of living, we would have to pull in $60,000 more than we do now to maintain our current lifestyle.

Other considerations-- Friends, family, housing costs, the Dentones...

We are in a sort of limbo.


Lee said...

Pretty much all the exact same thoughts Mags and I had after our visit. Especially the part about how we already have great jobs here, which really weighs heavily against the urge to move.

Mags loved the place when we've visited, but both times it was sunny and beautiful every single day. She has seasonal affective disorder (a fancy way of saying gloomy days give her headaches, and yes, the acronym for that is "SAD"), so I suspect she'd like it less on those 222.

stephen said...

you can always find meaningful fulfilling work anywhere, as y'all are meaningful fulfilling people.

Craig said...

It's hard to remember, but Austin is really only 'cool' by Texas or Southern standards. Drop it into New England or the Pac N'West, and it wouldn't seem so shiny.

Picture, if you will, Burnet Road, or any of several sections of Lamar. pretty?

Lee said...

Burnet Road may not be pretty, but it has other charms.

Jennifer C said...

Austin is cool by national standards, Craig, not just the SW. People who visit here from all over are impressed. And from my travels nationwide, it is the only place that I think rivals Portland.

I've been haunted by Portland ever since visiting for the first time 18 years ago. The towering trees, ferns, gorgeous gardens, friendly people, incredible food, clear streams. I've been in summer, fall, and winter.

I'm sure in March, after a full dreary winter, with the sun setting at 4pm, it's not so appealing.

Lee said...

I have to agree with Jennifer. Austin is has runaway growth because it has the same national reputation as a great place to live as Portland. And Portland actually lags behind us in some ways. Bill and another friend who used to live there tell me there is no live music scene there to speak of.