Helloooo Oregon

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So, here we are in Oregon. We finally made it. We actually made it up here nearly two weeks ago, but are just now getting settled in. We are not in Portland-proper, but a suburb called Lake Oswego. Basically, if you picked up Irvine and dropped it in a forest, you would have Lake Oswego. You can drive around, but you see almost nothing but trees–there are so many trees that it is hard to see stores and buildings while driving down the road. You tend to have to know where things are — it is a little difficult to just stumble across things. The real nifty thing about Lake Oswego, as compared to Irvine, is that it is about 10 minutes from downtown Portland (maybe 15 with traffic), while Irvine is still at least 45-60 minutes from LA.

Speaking of traffic — the I-5 runs through the greater Portland area, much like it does through LA and Orange County. While rush hour consists of stop-and-go traffic and might get up to 15 MPH in SoCal, it slows down to about 55 (the posted speed limit) up here in Oregon. The cops are a little freaky around here, though. They are all in plain, completely unmarked, cars. The cars are all different. There are no police logos. There are no light bars (except for a light on the dash and in the back window). I saw several in different makes, models, and colors of SUV. I saw one in an older black Camero. It is really difficult to play “spot the cop.”

Rent here is pretty good. The smaller, one-bedroom, places are about half of what they are in Costa Mesa. We have a 2-bedroom place, with about the same square-footage as we had in Costa Mesa (only with a better layout that makes MUCH better use of the space), and are paying about $10 less. Of course, after I moved out of the place I had been living in for almost 5 years, I heard the answering machine of the landlord who had jacked up the price $300–so I might be comparing older prices in Costa Mesa (I only had the rent raised once — a total of $30) with the rent up here.

Sales tax here is nonexistent. This is the strangest thing. Something that costs $19.99 will give you a penny in change.

Prices here, on the other hand, are kind of expensive. Larger items, with manufacturer suggested retail prices, cost about the same. Smaller items, like groceries, look to be much more expensive. I guess we will see how the utilities compare.

The weather is kind of funky. It has been really hot here the last couple of weeks–not as hot as southern California, but still quite warm. It has even rained here twice. Once was in the middle of the night–no big deal. The other was strange. It was a hot, yet slightly dark, morning. Off in the distance, we noticed a few lightning bolts. We parked in front of Bed Bath and Beyond and went in to purchase a few necessities. During the 20 minutes we were in there, it started raining. We are not just talking little droplets–we are talking torrential downpour with loud thunder and bright lighting. By the time we reached the front of the checkout line, it was perfectly clear and sunny outside. What was even more weird was the FOG! Because it was a hot day, the cement and asphalt was warm. After the rain, the water on the ground started to quickly evaporate because of the latent heat, causing instana-fog, which you could actually SEE rising from the ground.

We are still getting settled in. I am working during the week (for the same company, only remotely, in SoCal), so we only have evenings (“I'm tired”) and weekends to set up furniture and unpack boxes. Also, we do not yet have the DSL we were supposed to get a few days ago–so it is either run down to Starbucks for their wireless or “borrow” the wireless connection of some anonymous neighbor and hope said neighbor (with a Linksys router and XP box) is not bright enough to notice the blinky lights and lower bandwidth. I feel safe pulling up the occasional website or grabbing email (through a secure tunnel), but do not feel so safe doing a full VPN to work or running a file-sharing program. The current ETA for DSL is Wednesday, but the modem has not even shown up from UPS yet.

I still know nobody except the on-site apartment manager. Everyone here is strangely friendly, though. It is almost as if we are living in Disneyland. Boston tended to be pretty friendly, but this place is a several orders of magnitude above that. EVERYONE says hello, is friendly and chatty, and it is just so weird and foreign–not that I am complaining or anything. Everyone here also seems to be more environmentally aware and health-food (though not necessarily vegetarian-food, as Kate has been finding out) aware.

Across the street is a little “Mercato” (not the Spanish word, as we thought, but Italian). It is a combination mini-mart, deli, coffee shop, pizza place, and liquor store. They have munchie-food in one section. They have a GIANT selection of good wine in another. The coffee is quite good, as is the pizza. The deli looks tasty.

Anyway, more reports later…

Posted in: Dear Diary Portland

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