When I read these comments, I had just spent weeks giddy with the prospect of our new life out West: Open spaces where our daughter could scamper and play! Snowcapped mountains for rejuvenating vacations! Living quarters of more than six hundred square feet! The comments were at once deflating and disappointing.
Cyberspace isn’t known for its etiquette, of course. But one of the reasons my wife, Joanna, and I had decided to embrace Portland and discard New York, where we’d lived for the previous six years, was that Portland simply doesn’t speak like the rest of the country. It has a tone all its own: laid-back, open-armed, welcoming. I happened to know a handful of New Yorkers who had made the move to Portland before us—including my oldest brother, who left for the same reasons of urban fatigue that compelled us—but surely not so many as to make up the crass, Eden-ravaging hordes of the Oregonian readers’ imaginations. In fact, every New York–to–Portland emigrant I know is a “creatively thinking progressive” who’s concerned enough with “green forests and blue skies” to want to live in a city that actually shares that concern. Some strange force appeared to be at work. Something powerful enough to make Portlanders revile the very idea of New Yorkers in their midst. Something to make them believe a nefarious urban exodus was in the offing. I believe that something might be the New York Times.
Allow me to explain. Three years ago, when my brother decided to settle in Portland, the conventional wisdom in New York was that his move was borderline exotic. Portland wasn’t a known quantity, like Los Angeles or San Francisco or Washington, DC. It was a provincial city, with little more than a basketball team, the hotel from The Shining, and eight months of cloud cover to distinguish it from other provincial cities. Then, in the spring of 2007, the New York Times began to write about Portland as if the entire metropolitan area—roads, government, restaurants, bike lanes, and all—had just yesterday emerged from the Willamette, fully developed.