How to be a Portlander, by Mark Petruska

Earlier this year, cable channel IFC aired a series called “Portlandia” that brilliantly spoofed the Rose City. Adored by critics, the series was laugh-out-loud funny and, I believe, a perfect representation of Portland. Thankfully, it’s been renewed for a second season, which will air next January.

The fact that such an outlandish series airing on Friday nights on a little-seen cable television network would prove so popular – not just in Portland, but nationwide – thrills me, and makes me believe that our little corner of the country holds an allure for many outsiders. They scoff at out liberal eccentricities and laugh out loud over the stereotypes that are off the charts wacky and yet, undeniably, true – while secretly yearning to see just what all the fuss is about. Maybe it’s because we’re tucked way up here in the top left corner of the U.S. and sometimes seem like a separate country populated by coffee-swilling, flannel-clad, bicycle-riding vegans who are pro-marijuana, pro-assisted suicide, pro-spotted owl, and anti-establishment. I’d be curious to see just what was going on up here if I lived elsewhere, I’m sure.

With Portland now such a trendy place and in the spotlight, I thought I would offer up a few tips to anybody planning a trip to our fair city. This will help you blend in with the locals and will enhance your appreciation for all things PDX.

Without further ado, then, here is my guide on How To Be A Portlander.

  1. First, and most importantly, learn how to pronounce Oregon. It’s OR-ih-guhn. Not OR-eeh-gahn or anything else like that. Mispronouncing the name of our state will immediately blow your cover. Likewise, figure out the correct pronunciation for the Willamette River in order to avoid looking like a fool.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the city’s nicknames. We’re not just the Rose City; we also answer to Stumptown, Rip City, and SoMuchAwesomerThanSeattle.
  3. Grow some facial hair. Be prepared to sport, at the least, 3 days’ worth of stubble. Bonus points for goatees and beards. Mustaches, however, went out of vogue in 1982…unless you’re Tom Selleck.
  4. Observe our dress code. It’s really quite simple: there is no dress code. Dress however you please! A few popular looks include shorts in the dead of winter, pairing socks with sandals, flannel shirts, Birkenstocks, glasses, faded rock ‘n roll t-shirts, tie-dye, pajama bottoms, anything made from hemp or decorated with peace signs, and Gore-Tex.
  5. Fall in love with trees. You don’t have to hug them – how literal and cliché – but you’d better appreciate them. After all, they’re on the state license plate. Learn the difference between a Douglas fir, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce.
  6. Poke fun at Californians. Even if they’ve never done anything to wrong you. Learning a few California jokes to whip out at social gatherings is especially helpful.
  7. Overcome your fear of needles. People here don’t talk about their tattoo, they talk about their “first tattoo” and their eyes grow misty as they remember that long-ago occasion. If you don’t have one, you’d better get one to blend in. If you have one, for crying out loud, why do you only have one?! Needles are also useful for piercing parts of your anatomy and for pumping lethal doses in your veins when you’re ready to Die With Dignity.
  8. Do not, under any circumstances, walk into a coffee shop and order coffee. You’d better be ready for a latte or an Americano or something with chai. And when your barista creates a work of art in that swirl of steamed milk floating atop your brew, tip him.
  9. Work up a good head of steam whenever you find an aluminum can – gasp! – in the trash can. If you’ve actually seen the perpetrator commit the offense, unleash a tirade about saving the earth. Then write to your Congressman and demand they pass a law banning plastic bags from grocery stores.
  10. If you’ve never been to Powell’s, turn around and leave the city immediately.
  11. Learn the lingo. “The Schnitz” is the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, “Big Pink” is the U.S. Bancorp Tower, and “The Fonz” was that cool dude on Happy Days. The last one isn’t too relevant these days.
  12. Do not buy an umbrella. It’s much cooler to walk around and end up getting drenched. The rain is a constant here; if you don’t embrace it, you’ll go crazy. Also weather-related: throw around the term “sun breaks” whenever the spigot temporarily shuts off and that orange ball of light can be seen through the clouds, and be prepared for utter chaos and panic – school closures, around-the-clock news coverage with reporters standing on overpasses holding microphones while traffic crawls by beneath – whenever an inch of snow falls, which is more than enough to paralyze the city.

Mark Petruska is in love and wants the world to know it. The object of his affection? The Pacific Northwest, where he has lived since 1994. Born in Hawaii, his father was in the Air Force, and the family moved often. Over the years, Mark has called many places home – Dayton, Ohio; Rapid City, South Dakota; San Jose, California – but his heart belongs to Portland.

Mark is also passionate about writing, and has cranked out a number of novels and short stories over the years. His dream is to become a published author.

“I’d love to walk into Powell’s Books someday, and pull a novel with my name on it from the shelf,” he says. “It will happen…mark my words!”

A recent corporate layoff prompted Mark to pursue his passion and begin a freelance writing career. With a steady and growing client base, he hopes to make a living solely through his writing. Hobbies include cooking, blogging, photography, hiking, and “mind-numbing reality television.”