Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

Portland Rain Isn't for Everyone

2011-11-16 10:49:36
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There are a lot of folks from other parts of the world on the "secret project." A group of developers from Baltimore, the usual Bangalore crowd, and a scattering from the rest of the US. But no mater where they're from, they're all complaining about the rain.

This is one of the basic problems with Portland -- if you're not from here, you really don't understand what we mean by "it rains all the time." And it's not just the rain, it's the complete lack of sunlight. Between the cloud cover and the angle of the sun in November, the days feel like some gothic twilight; coming in from the gloom into an office with bright florescent lights is as jarring as leaving a building and going into the sun in the rest of the world.

It's not like we don't have sunny days, we just don't have many of them. The days that it's not raining are often cloudy or foggy, with occasional "sun breaks" where you get just enough of a hint of sunshine to be a torturous reminder of what could have been a beautiful day.

But then, I like the dim days and long periods of cool wet weather. Too many days of sunshine get me down -- I remember working with a client based north of San Diego. He was from Portland and when I visited the office on a warm, sunny February day and mentioned the cold, sleeting weather I had just left, he said, "Man, I don't know how many more days of 72 degrees and sunny I can take."

It's true the rain makes things difficult. Bicycling in the 38 degree rain isn't fun, especially when you share the road with spray from the four wheel drive monsters people tend to choose for our long winters. Fall was pretty this year, until the current downpour turned the leaves into a mush that looks remarkably like Corn Flakes left too long in the milk.

I think one of the reasons Portland has that anachronistic feeling of a timber or fishing town from fifty years ago is because our weather makes us seek out places we actually want to hang out in. When you're going to hide from the rain in a public place for a few hours, you don't have the patience to sit in an Applebees or Red Robin. You need to feel like you're at a private club in an Agatha Christie novel.

Our cozy pubs are cozier in the winter -- the wood smoke from our local pub invites you in, and the random musician in the corner keeps you around for the third pint as much as the prospect of going back out into the rain for a cold wet walk home. During the day, our coffee shops are like a warm blanket with that jolt of caffeine that makes it possible to get back into the fray.

And the weather in Portland is perfect if you want to live in an Agatha Christie novel, although, surprisingly, not everyone likes Agatha Christie, and not everyone likes Portland rain.

Good thing I do...

Subjective Facts
Visiting My Mother in the Hospital

Tracey Rovira Steele: Re: Michael Bissell: Portland Rain Isn't for Everyone
2011-11-16 11:25:32

I haven't lived in Portland since 1999. I can't say that I miss the rain all the time, but I do tend to get cranky if too many days have gone by without rain or gray skies. It's just too bright and sunny and blasted cheerful. When it rains, I feel peaceful...nurtured...and a little closer to my old home.

I had to smirk a little at "long winter." Only a Portlander would call it long. Considering how things start thawing and budding there in March and other locations are digging out from 18 inches of snow...the ginormous vehicles are serious overkill.

Michael Bissell: Re: Tracey Rovira Steele
2011-11-16 16:41:15

I understand your smirk, but you have to remember -- we don't get the real relief of spring the way places with real winters do.

When I lived in Ohio I learned how much that first bit of green changes your entire sense of being... Finally! The ice and shoveling is over. The air changes quality and feels alive and new. Spring in places with hard winters arrives with trumpets blaring to cheering crowds.

Spring in Portland means trees start to bud. But it's still raining. It means the rain is a little warmer. But it's still raining. We don't really know it's spring unless we look at a calendar. It just sneaks in, settles down, and quietly leaves when summer shows up -- late as usual.

Tracey Rovira Steele: Re Tracey Rovira Steele
2011-11-16 17:16:11

Touche. Actually it took me something like five years to really settle in and accept the rain. And it was spring that did it. I was walking home from work under an obscenely cheerful tree frog umbrella - heresy, I know - and I suddenly realized I could smell the earth. All that rain - slightly warmer than the winter, but still rain - was soaking into the ground and making things rich and ripe for growing. It was weird but felt damn good. Also, coming back from a rafting trip in arid Eastern Oregon was like suddenly hitting a tropical and obnoxiously green growing zone when you hit the general vicinity of Portland. If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, Portlanders must have an equal number for "green."

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