This is my first time officially introducing myself as "from Portland" to a group of people I have never met, people from places like Singapore and Louisville, Kentucky. I've quickly learned that I have to clarify that I am not from Portland, Maine, (a city that I thought was second rate because of its near absence in all my previous "Portland" Google searches). I'm okay with losing my west coast centricity now that I'm out east. I don't mind readjusting. 

But for once, I feel semi-competent, dare I say proud even, to represent the city I live in. Back when I lived in LA, I would utter those two loaded letters with a snarl and an "eww" grimace when someone asked where I was from. I was usually quick to add the disclaimer, "but I'm originally from Hawaii." Yet with further prodding, anyone would discover that my Hawaiinness was a disappointment. I don't surf; I don't do the hula; I still get lost driving to the North Shore on a 100-mile loop of an island. Portland, however, is a place I feel qualified to speak of because I've been living there for a decent stretch of time (two and half years) and my job is to research and write about city happenings. Read any culture feature I've ever written about Portland and it essentially says the same thing: Portland is under-the-radar cool. Or at least it's still trying to be. 

Portland is no longer sooooo under the radar that the NY Times still regularly writes about how edgy it is. Recently, we've been ranked as both the nation's most depressed and most unmanly city. While this backlash just heightens our emo cred, it also asserts that our radar is, if not radiating, beaconing perhaps. We have arrived. But the rise and fall of our popularity is of no consequence to us. We Portlanders like to spout that we don't care what people think anyway; we innately know that we're cool, but we're also introverted and passive aggressive, and therefore, we'd never say "we're cool" aloud, and instead we'd skulk around in an air of cool. Thus making us even more cool. Or just kinda annoying.

Regardless, here on the east coast, these intricacies of coolness aren't common knowledge. Here, at my residency, I am one of the few from the west, one of three from the northwest. Since most people don't have much to culturally associate with Seattle besides grunge, and the only thing I have to associate with Olympia is that grunge song by Courtney Love, therefore, between the two Washington gals and myself, I am the urban "other." 

This is not to be confused with the exotic other. Exotic was what I thought I was when I would brag that I was from Hawaii. Unfortunately for my naivete (hell, I was from an island), unless I was speaking to someone not from the States, most people already knew, met or worked with someone from Hawaii. And usually that person was very proud about being from Hawaii, talked about Hawaii all the time and frequently dared people to try weird food. My bubble of paradise was officially popped when someone asked me recently, "Doesn't Hawaii have a lot of meth addicts and trannies?" Thank you Dog The Bounty Hunter for that glowing, yet sadly truthful, depiction.  

Anyway, Portland still has a smidge of mystique. Here, in an international artists' colony, I get to brag about how there's either a coffee shop or a bar on every corner; how it's the easiest city to navigate and how transportation's a breeze; how we don't close ourselves off to the rest of the world, or change, or creativity, but we still manage to shun national superstores and chains, and buy, grow and reuse what's made locally. And when people ask if the weather is depressing, I say yes, but then I listen to these same people complain about the gray skies here in Vermont, and I think about how I enjoyed listening to the rain fall on the roof of the old mill I slept in last night, and while everyone decides not to tour the town of Johnson because they don't want to get wet, I don't mind going for a walk in the drizzle. I feel a slight charge from the moodiness of a bloated cloudy sky, from the sound of rain washing away the day, and from the sun peeking out in surprise. And while I'm neither Portland's stereotypical flannel-and-Converse-clad hipster, nor am I some Northface-wearing sustainability advocate (heck, I don't even ride a bike or drink much craft beer), I do feel comfortable about where I come from. I may not be convinced that Portland's my home, or that I'll ever really know what home truly feels like, but I have made very few smart alek asides about Portland in the last few days, (okay, I did say a few things about the coolness factor), which is something out of my comfort zone, and that feels nice.



Overcast days seem more romantic, or at least less despairing, in a quaint New England town.


What I've learned in the last 24 hours (i.e. universal truths)...

Writers are: 

1. Spacey. Standing outside of a locked building in 30-degree weather, only one in 12 writers remembers that each of us has a key to get inside. 

2. Self defeatists. During introductions, sentiments include, "My genre is poetry, but really, I write emails" and "I stopped keeping a journal because I realized I've consistently learned nothing since 1983."

3. Drunks. After self-defeating statements are uttered, someone mentions that we'll probably all be seeing each other at the town bar by night two. At breakfast the next morning, this is mentioned again.

4. Procrastinators. In a residency of 38 visual artists and 12 writers, the only table left once breakfast is over is a four-top of writers brainstorming ways to remember writing down ideas. 

5. Defiant. During orientation, the tour guide tells us that the nearby hiking trails are muddy and pretty much off limits until about June. Another writer and I question what "off limits" means and what shoes would be appropriate if these trails were hypothetically not off limits. 

6. Indiscreet shit talkers. As soon as this other writer and I walk away from orientation, we moan about forbidden hiking and plot how we will not write, but instead, head up to the mountain later. Only just before noticing the orientation guide is right beside us.  


I've contemplated this blogging thing for a while. Friends say, "You're a writer, why don't you blog?" or better yet, "Why don't you blog, pull some ads and make some money?" I hesitated. I had internal discourses about lacking a niche and creating something of literary value, or running out of clever things to say, or sounding too contrived, or being even more narcissistic than I already am. Then I arrived in Vermont.

It is here on my first day of my writer's residency in the woods of Johnson, Vermont, that I decided to give this blogging thing a go. Here, where I am supposed to focus on writing my thesis for the next month, frantically examining, reexamining, writing and rewriting about myself, yes here, in the most pretentious of literary settings (a writer's colony in my own private studio named after Jane Austin), this is where I decided I will write about myself some more and then I will post it for the reading pleasure of everyone I think loves me or is interested. Better yet, I'll write about how I'll be doing nothing but writing. No niche, pure narcissism. 

Enjoy. Or rip on me. I like banter.