Everybody has a story: Portland: Home sweet, very weird, home

Even at the airport, the natives are easy to spot

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Flying home from Kansas, we had a layover in Salt Lake City. When I said I was on my way to Portland, the lady said, “Go to Gate 20B.”

I knew I was getting close when I saw a man with a long gray ponytail standing next to a young man with a $75 haircut. I didn’t need to see the gate number when I observed the people standing in line. Most of them were either holding Starbucks coffees or bottles of water in recycled containers. This had to be the right place. I wondered if someone was going to pull out a bicycle.

The rolling suitcases had been traded in for backpacks. There were more tattoos in that line than I had seen in the whole state of Kansas, to say nothing of the piercings that decorated their lips and noses.

Of course there were sandals with socks, flip flops with sweatshirts and assorted shaped and sizes of Nikes that were anything but cheap.

They had to be Portlanders, with the designer jeans and button-up Izod shirts on several guys and a lady in the front of the line with long hair and a stocking cap, in spite of the 90-degree heat.

Next to me were several people with blingy sunglasses adorning their heads like crowns. Most of these people were lily-white, with very few wrinkles, due to an extreme lack of sun and possibly little Botox.

Yes, these were my friends — my Portlanders.

Then, I spied a lady who had a rolling suitcase and a tan. She didn’t sport a tat or piercings, and her clothes were unfamiliar. She appeared to have a cup of tea in her hand. I checked the gate number, and it confirmed I was in the right place.

I couldn’t help but ask her, “On your way home?”

She said, “No. I’m just visiting Portland. I’m from New York.”

I grinned a little and looked around at all the little clues that said, “You’re headed for Portland.”

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I thought of the bumper sticker that said, “Keep Portland weird!” I couldn’t wait to get home, back to the Northwest, where the people are familiar and strange, and as comfortable as my favorite pair of house slippers. Home, sweet home.

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