What’s not to love about Portland?




Trivia Question: What does Jack Ely of Terrebonne, Ore., have to do with a column about Portland? (Answer below.)

Next month marks the eighth anniversary of my move to Clark County, and my only regret is that it didn’t happen 30 years earlier. Blessed is the man who lives in the best community in the best state in the best country in the world.

I also count myself lucky to live near America’s best big city. Of course, that’s just my opinion. Many people in Clark County vehemently disagree, but they probably didn’t make it past that headline up there anyway. Some of our local folks are paralyzed with the fear that their towns will become more like that evil wasteland across the river. One recent online commenter called Portland a “cesspool.” Oh, my! Others of us see Portland not as a place to loathe, fear and avoid, but a place to embrace. Here’s why:

10. The airport — Isn’t it great to come home to the turquoise comfort of PDX? The airport is closer to many of us than it is to many Portlanders. Four times since 2006, Condé Nast Traveler magazine has ranked PDX as the nation’s No. 1 airport for business travelers.

9. The golf — You can plumb-bob your fifth putt at more than two dozen public golf courses in and around Portland. I’ve “played golf” at about half of the courses and fully intend to hit out of bounds at all of the rest.

8. The beer — I’m not talking about the cheap, big-name swill. I’m talking about ambrosial ale. There are 28 microbreweries in “Beervana.”

7. Parks, etc. — Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a must-see jewel, especially for concerts. Forest Park in Northwest Portland (eight miles long, 5,000-plus acres) is America’s largest urban wilderness park. I also love the Rose Garden, both of ’em: the Washington Park Rose Garden with all its grandeur, and the Rose Garden where the Trail Blazers help us ride the spirit of Rip City. (Tip: Take light rail to the game.) The Oregon Zoo in Portland has the highest attendance of any fee-based tourist attraction in the state. Last year, the zoo drew 1.6 million people, breaking its attendance record for the fifth consecutive year.

6.Growth management — In Portland and outlying areas, green is more than just a color. It’s a philosophy, manifested in strict land-use regulations. Where I lived before, there were just two solutions to every growth-management challenge: asphalt and concrete.

5. The restaurants — You can drop some serious cash at the high-falutin’ eateries over there, or you can chat and chew at quaint and funky cafes along Alberta Street. Just a few minutes’ drive from Vancouver, you’ll find chicken-fried heaven: the restaurant at mega-truck stop Jubitz Travel Center.

4. The science — The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry offers superb exhibits for adults and kids alike.

3. The humor — Unlike Clark County, Portland isn’t afraid to laugh at itself. Then again, you really don’t have much choice when 13,000 people participate in your World Naked Bike Ride. The TV series “Portlandia” pokes shameless fun at the city, yet Portlanders love it. The funniest pro golfer — Peter Jacobsen — is from Portland.

2. The churches — I’ve visited three in Portland (Baptist, Methodist and Unitarian; I like to mix it up). Granted, the Northwest is one of the most unchurched areas of America, but there are plenty of places in Portland to raise a joyful noise unto the Lord.

1. Light rail — Portland’s 52-mile, 85-station MAX system is consistently ranked among the best in the nation. Yes, light rail is costly to build, but if you think it’s expensive now, wait 50 years and try to build it while explaining to your grandkids why you were so short-sighted back in 2011.

Bonus advantage of Portland: Music — All genres are masterfully presented in Portland. I’ve got some favorite jazz haunts. This topic brings us to the Trivia Answer: Jack Ely of Terrebonne, Ore., was the singer on that haunting Baroque lullaby, “Louie Louie.” He and the rest of The Kingsmen are from Portland. Though banned (sort of) in Indiana by then-Gov. Matthew Welsh, this 1963 classic remains an anthem of sorts in Portland. Just don’t tell any of the cantankerous folks on this side of the river. They already have enough reasons to be hatin’ on Stumptown … like anyone over there really cares.

John Laird is The Columbian’s editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at john.laird@columbian.com.