I’ve spent the weekend (since Thursday night, actually) in The Other Portland, in Maine, the namesake of the city I’m from. It’s been a quick trip, but a lot of fun exploring this city, which I’ve found quite charming.
I was here for a school interview, so I spent Saturday morning doing that. Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon were spent exploring. I was lucky enough to be here at the perfect window of opportunity when the leaves are turning gorgeous colors, but it is not yet raining, just brisk. To be honest, I found it quite refreshing to be in this Portland. I think the impression that I’ve come away with after these few days is that this place is remarkably unpretentious, which is quite nice. It also made me realize how, well, pretentious and self-aware Portland (OR) can be. Being immersed in it all the time, one looses perspective on what things are really like. But in comparison, to Portland (ME), Portland (OR) seems exhausting. Here’s what I’ve noticed, and remember that these are broad generalizations and observations I’ve made over a weekend.
*People in Portland(ME) just really seem to not care, and I say this in the best possible way. Current fashion or looking a certain way just doesn’t seem to be a priority. I think this is the opposite in Portland(OR). I live in the Pearl, so my world is probably more exaggerated than most, but the majority of people I see are very put together, stylish, have a “style” they are obviously trying to maintain. Even hipster people who are trying their hardest to look like they don’t care, obviously do, maybe even more than everyone else. Outfits seem perfectly picked and orchestrated to look cool. In Portland(ME) none of this seems to even cross people’s minds. People don’t seem to care what they’re wearing. There are a lot of jeans and t-shirts and flannel going on. If people are wearing outdoor gear, it looks like they actually wear the gear down to the bone, definitely not the “Patagoochie” types. Most women wore minimal to no makeup, didn’t have their hair cut stylishly or dyed. There was lots of “grunge” wear going on on the streets. While people say “the dream of the 90’s” is alive in Portland(OR), I think it is actually alive in Portland(ME), it’s not a dream. I’m not saying people here are a bunch of slobs. It was actually quite nice to be around a community that didn’t put a high priority on looking a certain way.
*I felt that Portland(ME) was much less self-aware than Portland(OR). In Portland(ME) things just are the way they are. In Portland(OR) everything is advertised as gluten-free, vegan, free-range, sustainable, local, eco-friendly, bike-friendly, diversity-friendly, welcome-to-all, farm-to-form, organic, green, etc, etc, etc… In Portland(ME) things just are the way they are, and you can get them or not. I found it quite refreshing. I realized that the self-awareness of Portland(OR) can be exhausting at times. You can’t just do X or buy Y without first knowing if it is locally-sourced or being made to feel guilty that it is from China, or that it isn’t made with organic fibers, or that it was not grown in ideal dirt.
*There are lots of nice cab drivers in Portland(ME). I had to take a lot of short cab rides this weekend going back and forth between the school I was visiting. Each time I also got a nice middle-aged man cab driver, always a Portland(ME) local, always wanting to talk about this, that and the other things or give me a tour (“Here’s where I was born” or “Here is where the first McDonald’s in Portland went”) always with a thick Maine accent.
*One of my first impressions of Portland(ME) was that it was a “working man’s city.” I’m not sure if that is entirely true, but it was my first impression at least. What I mean by that was that there seemed to be a lot of blue collar workers around, definitely more than Portland(OR). I felt that in Portland(ME), there were a lot of people doing “essential” jobs, like construction or electrical work, or running convenience stores, or roofing, etc… I compare this to Portland(OR) where a lot of people do non-essential work (maybe?) like running start-ups, starting artisanal kombucha stands, working at advertising firms, etc… I’d say, a lot of people around who strive to be the best, #1 at whatever they are doing, while in Portland(ME) people just were doing what they did.
*Lots of dogs. I mostly saw bigger dogs, hardly any of lap dogs.
*In Portland(OR) there are all these “Keep Portland Weird” stickers and signs everywhere and I feel like people go out of their way to be “weird” just because it’s Portland(OR) and they have to uphold the reputation. In Portland(ME), things are just weird and I don’t think anyone knows it or cares. For example, I went for a walk and passed a dog park on the beach and along with all the dogs, there was a human dressed in a white dog suit, rubbing sand and dirt all over his dog costume.
*Portland(ME) is very charming and it’s fun to be in a place that has so much more history. I found everything to be delightfully raggedy. Nothing really was “perfect”. On most houses the paint was peeling, things were rusty, the cobblestones were not straight, things were a little dirty, weeds were sprouted up all over the place on the pavement and elsewhere, but I enjoyed this. It felt a little more authentic.
*On a side note: the monumental thing about this weekend was that it was the first time that someone off the street asked me if I was pregnant. Given, it was a women who I am pretty sure was on meth or some other drugs, but still! I was pretty surprised because I still don’t think I look pregnant, more just a little fat. Obviously she wasn’t the “hold your tongue” type of person, because I very well could have just been a little fat. But, I told her she was right and that she was the first person who had asked me that. She asked if I knew the sex, and I said I didn’t, but we were finding out in a few weeks. She ran up to me, put her face right in front of my belly and said, “Hmmmm…. Girl!” and ran away after flashing a tooth-less smile.
Love this house. I love the color and the yellow tree outside. Haunted looking house on the coast. Street scene. Fallen leaves on Mulljoy Hill. Great bookstore in Portland, Yes Books. PIcked up Himalaya by Michael Palin here. The colors! View of the coast.