Depending on who you talk to, Oregon might be a microbrew-fueled bike Valhalla or UV-deprived wasteland, but no one can deny it’s on the move. Earlier this month, the demographers at noted scientific institute/moving company United Van Lines came out with their annual relocation survey, showing that Oregon has become the number one migration spot among losers who don’t have any friends to help lift their couch. Most people, of course, know better than to trust their moving guys for statistical analyses, but The Daily Beast’s Nina Strochlic used the pseudo-study as an opportunity to come down on the side of “UV-deprived wasteland” and trash talk her home state.
Under the guise of “debunking” Oregon’s Edenic reputation, The Daily Beast claimed, among other things, that the weather is bad, the history lacking and there’s nothing to do outside Portland. But while each of these claims is impressively wrong and stupid, none of them are really new, sounding more like the cliched disses of a first-time visitor than a 17-year resident. Living in Oregon, you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear one of these tired tropes from out-of-state haters who presumably think The Goonies was a documentary about life on the Oregon coast. Unfortunately for them, these slams don’t reflect reality any more than there’s a pirate ship hidden in Astoria’s caves (sorry, treasure hunters).
Starting with the Oregon’s notorious drippy weather, yes you’re going to see some clouds, but that’s the price of getting some of the mildest weather in America. With an average low of 37 degrees in its coolest month and an average high of 79 degrees in its hottest, Portland has one of the tightest temperature ranges of any major city outside of California, beat only by nearby Seattle. And even when it comes to rainfall, Oregon’s wettest hobbit holes are handily out-soaked by cities in Hawaii, a place universally recognized for its unbearably dreary climate. Either way, if you can’t handle weather in Oregon, a place where few people own either an air conditioner or a serious winter coat, you have way bigger things to worry about, clearly having left your protective plastic bubble for the first time.
Another common, significantly more offensive myth, is that the West Coast lacks history, a statement that’s only true if you’re only counting stuff white dudes built and/or destroyed. Far from being the Whovian time vortex Strochlic suggests, Oregon is home to Paisley Caves, one of the oldest human settlements in North America, with coprolites dated to 13,000 years ago. And while fossilized shit admittedly lacks the charm of a Georgian brick house, the site is only the beginning of the millennia-long history of people in Oregon. From totem poles to plank houses, the Pacific Northwest’s indigenous peoples created some of America’s most beautiful and iconic pre-Columbian works. The result, I’m told, of the region’s abundance of leisure time even back in the “shit in a cave” days.
Finally, there’s the old Oregon=Portland chestnut, which Strochlic brings out to dismiss the rest of the state, even claiming Eugene “offers little in-town entertainment” other than two malls and a college. If your idea of a good time is arena concerts and shopping at chic department stores, you’re inevitably going to be disappointed in Eugene or any other city with less than three stars in the Michelin Guide to Being Basic. But if you’re willing to invest even minimal effort, you’ll find amazing independent artists and unique shops in just about every city in Oregon. Frankly, while Portland has tried to appropriate Austin’s “Keep _______ Weird” slogan, Portland is one of the least weird places in the state. Greater Oregon is home to all manner of bigfoot hunters, paranormal investigators and out-and-out maniacs, making it a must-visit for anyone that’s serious about adventure.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to cover all the fictions Strochlic and her ilk repeat about Oregon (though contradictory claims about the state’s homogeneity and its gun-filled, theocratic Eastern half basically disprove themselves), but they probably do serve a legitimate purpose, dampening the tendency toward magical thinking that comes with discussions of the Beaver State. It’s true, moving to Oregon won’t solve all your problems or keep you in a constant state of IFC-approved faux-hipster bliss, but only because relocating can only do so much. In the end, you still have to deal with being you, and if you’re a dumb and fundamentally boring person, you’ll be a dumb and fundamentally boring person in any other state, even one where you don’t need an umbrella.