Monday, February 27, 2012

A Portland Festival in Paris

Portland, Oregon, my former home
Photo by SoulRider .222
In April there's going to be a Keep Portland Weird festival. That's not too surprising, but here in Paris? I find it interesting that the city I live in is paying homage to the city I lived in. In fact, at my new job, I set a Portland, Oregon skyline as my desktop and was surprised to discover that I still feel so very strongly about this city. I miss Portland.

If you must live in the US, I would strongly recommend Portland because it's a lovely, quirky city and Oregon is a gorgeous state.

Some interesting historical tidbits: Portland used to have the second largest Chinatown in the US after San Francisco. Unfortunately, due to racism and claims that "their taking our jobs" (sound familiar?) many Chinese were forced out of Portland, often at gunpoint. Ironically, Portland has tried to win back some of the Asian trade it lost over a century ago, but Portland customs officials were known for being rather hostile towards asians, hampering the job (their was a significant shakeup at the Port of Portland a few years back to fix this problem).

Portland, Oregon
The Gates to Chinatown
Photo by Doug Kerr
More fascinating, though, in Salem, Oregon, the state's capital, is the case of Jacob Vanderpool. Oregon was an anti-slavery state to keep out black people, partially out of racism and partially to limit job competition. They also had illegal "exclusion" laws requiring black people to leave the state within six months or be flogged. Jacob Vanderpool was black and he was charged with violating those laws and forced to leave the state in the mid 1800s. He is the only black person known to have been forced out of Oregon under those laws.

Interestingly, Jacob Vanderpool was well off. He owned a saloon, a boarding house and a restaurant. Where did he get the money to buy them? What happened to his property after he was forced to leave? I've always thought his story would make a great screenplay, but even though I searched through Oregon's historical archives about Vanderpool, I could never find more information about him.

Portland is beginning to develop a strong reputation (obviously, I feel it's deserved) as an independent, quirky city with its own "vibe". There's even a comedy TV series about Portland. Portland, and Oregon in general, are fantastic and I'm surprised (and pleased) to see them being celebrated here in Paris. I hope to have the time to see it. If you have to "get out" and move to the US, try Portland. You won't regret it.


  1. Can't disagree with anything you've said - I'm from Seattle but I have a brother and sister in Portland. Very nice city. My parents have a farm about an hour's drive out of town near Silverton. Some photos from last summer:

    There's a French connection in there too. :-)

  2. I'm actually moving out to Portland in just a few weeks after having lived abroad for the past 5 and a half years. My wife and I left Seattle in 2006, after having been there for about 8 years, to move to Germany so that I could get my master's degree. In 2008 we moved to London so that she could get her master's degree.

    When we lived in Seattle I had been to Portland a couple of times, but mainly for OSCON so didn't get a chance to see too much of the city. Now I'm really looking forward to getting the chance to get to know the place better.