Actually, not quite. Love of facial hair and prominent eyewear? Yes. Obsession with local, organic, awesome food? Yes. It might be Brooklyn if you replaced Mayor Bloomberg with a bicycle and swapped 30% of the street parking with hen houses. But that’s where the similarities stop.
There’s lots of things Portland has that Brooklyn don’t: a spooky elementary school converted into a complex of bars and restaurants, an overbearing deference to cyclists, and second run movie theaters that serve beer along with three dollar movies.
The beards run strong there, as strong as their love for indoor shuffle board. I was told my beard looked “well-manicured” and I don’t think it was a compliment.
But this ain’t a blog about beards or shuffleboard or who jumped into my photos. This is about rooftop gardening.
My pal mentioned he had one above his office. I could’ve imagined it in my head, a triple story temple of all things holy to hipsters: a roof garden, on top of a cool office for a high-end cycling apparel company ON TOP of a fucking plant nursery… with chickens. And an episode of Portlandia was just filmed in the backyard. All of which turned out to be completely true, even the Portlandia thing.
We rolled in on him finishing a PBR at his desk, surrounded by bikes and gear that I’d kill another man for, a nice man who didn’t deserve it. And then he took me to the roof.
The owner wasn’t on hand to explain but it looked to be a green roof of succulents, sedums, and other tough-as-nails plants. Unlike my fleet of junky tomatoes, these guys were aimed at soaking up rainwater and insulating the building. And they looked great, even in their waining state.
The view off the back was a reminder that this roof was just a tiny part of the bigger operation. And the view of the horizon seemed to hint at a great deal more of this type of thing going on throughout the city.
Neighborhood after neighborhood of craftsman bungalows had gardens to match their charming, carefully selected paint schemes. It was downright impressive.
So no, this ain’t New York. The police here don’t seem prone to tackling you off your bike. Gardening is more the rule than the exception. Raising chickens and riding your bike constantly is just what you do here. Growing a tomato on your roof in Portland is not a statement. It’s just nice.
It’s like the war has been fought and won there; a city filled with courteous, environmentally-minded people who have a harmless but strange appetite for innovative donuts and exotic dancers. I can’t hate it, not even close. But without the struggle what’s it all for? Oh, it’s for this: living in a godddamn urban paradise.
Photos by The Tear Sheet Project